What does a positive lateral flow test result look like? Lateral flow test results, explained

With Covid case numbers spiking across the UK, here’s how to tell the difference between a positive and negative lateral flow test result

What does a positive lateral flow test result look like? Lateral flow test results, explained (Image credit: jonkempnerphotos via Canva Pro)
What does a positive lateral flow test result look like? Lateral flow test results, explained (Image credit: jonkempnerphotos via Canva Pro)

Coronavirus cases in Scotland and across the UK are soaring to new highs, with more than 9,000 new positive cases reported in Scotland alone on Thursday March 17.

The spike in new Covid cases and rise in hospitalisations comes after relaxation in testing and self-isolation rules came into effect in the UK, with the UK Government announcing an end to free lateral flow tests in England in April.

Amid the sharp rise in cases, initial plans to drop mandatory face mask restrictions alongside remaining legal Covid rules in Scotland have now been delayed.

A positive lateral flow test (left) will feature two lines adjacent to C and T, whereas a negative lateral flow test (right) will only feature one red line next to C. (Image credit: annastories/Canva Pro)

Addressing the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (March 15), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “ensuring maximum continued use of face coverings will provide some additional protection - particularly for the most vulnerable - at a time when the risk of infection is very high, and it may help us get over this spike more quickly.”

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With restrictions on hospitality, schools, travel testing and nightlife now relaxed in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said that lateral flow testing remains a key way of monitoring the emergence of the new Omicron BA.2 sub variant as life returns to normal.

Here’s what you need to know about lateral flow test results, what they look like and what they mean.

What does a negative lateral flow test result look like?

Lateral flow test results can take up to 30 minutes to appear in full, but negative results can often appear after minutes.

A negative lateral flow test result will be marked on your test with a single red line running horizontally alongside the ‘C’ on the test device.

To ensure that you do not receive a false negative lateral flow test result, you should avoid using a lateral flow test if you have any regular coronavirus or Omicron symptoms or have been identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19.

What does a positive lateral flow test result look like?

A positive lateral flow test will be indicated with two lines on your lateral flow test device, rather than just one adjacent to the ‘C’ for ‘control’.

A second red line representing a positive result will appear next to the ‘T’ letter on the device.

While the line alongside ‘T’, which stands for ‘Test’, usually appears in bold if you have coronavirus, it can also appear as a faint red line.

Even if this second line is very faint, this is still likely a positive result – and one that should be confirmed with a second lateral flow test or a PCR test rather than ignored.

How do I know if my lateral flow test result is void?

A void lateral flow test result can be indicated in a number of ways.

The most common void result is seen with a single line adjacent to the ‘T’ for test on the lateral flow device.

But another way to tell if a result is void is if nothing appears at all.

If you do receive a void lateral flow test result, you should perform another lateral flow test – but should not use any of the same equipment, swabs or containers as used in your previous, void test attempt.

Do I need to report my lateral flow test result?

Regardless of whether you receive a positive or negative result, you should report the result you get from a lateral flow test online via GOV.UK.

You can do this by going to the UK Government website or by logging your test result at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result.

Even if your lateral flow test result is negative, registering it online helps the government and health experts to monitor the spread of the virus in certain parts of the country and prevent health services from becoming overwhelmed.

Find out more about reporting your lateral flow test result in Scotland at NHS Inform.

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