‘I run a Covid test lab – here’s whether old lateral tests detect new variants’

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The latest Covid variant that appears to be spreading in the UK is BA.2.86, dubbed Pirola.

Lateral flow testing is no longer mandatory, but it remains an effective way to find out if you have the virus and to stop its spread by self-isolating.

NHS COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests are no longer free for most people.

You may still be able to get free tests from the NHS if you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatment or work in healthcare or in a hospice.

People who are not eligible for lateral-flow tests can buy them at pharmacies and certain retailers, and it’s also possible to buy them online.

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For those who have old tests stored away in their cupboards at home, they could still be effective at detecting Covid, even with new variants circulating, said Gabriela Brewer.

Gabriela, who has run London Covid Testing since February 2020, said: “Lateral flow/antigen/rapid test devices can detect old and new variants.

“But at the same time we noticed that lately these devices are very sensitive to any type of symptom and not just Covid, but also influenza.”

PCR tests were also available during the height of the pandemic, thought to be more accurate at detecting COVID-19.

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Gabriela added: “Many of our customers have tested positive on an antigen but negative on PCR. This is also because the antigen test would show positive even for the smallest amount of CT levels in saliva. PCR only shows positive after a certain amount.”

With new variants emerging, Gabriela advised people to use lateral flow testing.

She said: “It’s a good and easy way to find out if there’s anything wrong. At the same time it could be just a flu so I would advise to back it up with a PCR.”

If a PCR test and antigen test show negative, then it’s not Covid, even if you have symptoms, said Gabriela.

“But PCR can show negative because maybe you have already been positive before doing it so don’t exclude the option completely,” she added.

“I would definitely recommend people to isolate once they are positive on PCR or Antigen so we stop the spread of the virus and protect our loved ones.”

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