How should we test for coronavirus?

There are two tests to determine whether someone has coronavirus (and one – a blood test – to establish whether someone has actually had the virus).

The first test for the virus is called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This involves swabbing the back of the throat and the nostrils. The swab has to be sent to a specialist lab that typically takes 24-48 hours to determine the result. The test has a high degree of accuracy.

The second test for the virus is called lateral flow device (LFD). This involves swabbing the nostrils only and gives a result on the spot in 30 minutes. It is reasonably accurate but certainly not as sound as a PCR test.

For various reasons – mainly because I am a volunteer with the National Health Service (NHS) – so far I have done four PCR tests and 21 lateral flow tests (all negative, thank goodness). My poor nostrils!

Now we have promising news from France about a test that can be done faster than the lateral flow one – just 10 minutes – but with the accuracy of the PCR one. You can learn more about this proposed new test here.


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