Britain’s successful roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines has allowed the Government to publish a cautious, step-by-step roadmap back towards normality.
More than half the UK’s adult population has now been vaccinated – a truly extraordinary achievement and testament to the hard work and dedication of scientists, researchers and healthcare workers.
But as we unlock, it’s critical we don’t take any backward steps – and waste the sacrifices we’ve all made over recent months to bring Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalisations down.
Staying vigilant – and testing regularly
What has made Covid-19 such a difficult virus to control is the transmission among people with no symptoms. Though they feel perfectly fine, they can still pass it onto those who may not be so lucky. Around 1 in 3 people don’t show symptoms so may be spreading it without knowing it.
That risk will, of course, increase as we come to the end of lockdown and we all begin spending just that little bit more time with each other – always remembering to wash our hands, cover our faces where it makes sense to, and keep space between us.
Regular at-home testing will be a key part of remaining vigilant to break those chains of transmission. The more cases we find in people with no symptoms, who then follow government self-isolation guidelines, the more chains we break.
Alongside the vaccination programme, testing will play an important role. And while at first it may sound daunting, millions of people are already regularly testing at home.
Why is regular testing so important?
Medical experts are all of the belief that the vaccine is the best way to keep people safe from serious harm from Covid-19. All the studies and extensive trials have proven beyond doubt that all the jabs on offer in the UK, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, are safe and effective.
But not everyone is protected by the vaccine, some will still not have had it, and no vaccine, unfortunately, offers full protection.
And we also don’t yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission of the virus. So even after you have had both doses of the vaccine, you may still give Covid-19 to somebody else, and transmission will continue. That can obviously put people at risk, and all of us need to play our part to keep each other safe. That means regular, rapid testing is a big piece of the puzzle.
You aren’t so worried after the first one
Harry Owen’s wife is a teacher at a primary school, so has been getting used to her testing herself each week. He’s also a school governor, so he’s seen the value of testing in getting the country back on track.
“You get used to it, and it’s really not that bad. Having had Covid myself in the first lockdown and then gone on to have four tests for various reasons, I know that after the first one, you aren’t so worried,” he says of the rapid lateral flow tests.
“My fourteen year old daughter now has a regular test too, since returning to school. As a family we now have two people tested regularly,” he says.
And whilst it’s obviously something that Harry never expected to be a regular part of his life, he can see the benefit.
“Community spread is helped by this testing, making everyone feel more secure. Our community is fairly small – there is a significant interaction between parents, teachers, childrens and siblings, so the testing is having a direct impact on that spread.”
His daughter, after being concerned about her first test, is now even administering them herself.
“It means she can get to school and see her friends – and hopefully do some work, too.”
How does it work?
So-called rapid testing differs from other tests in that you don’t have to send it off to a lab, and you can do it yourself – or have a household member help.
It gives you a result in around 30 minutes telling you if you have signs of Covid-19 infection.
Already, millions of people are taking part in what is probably the country’s largest ever testing programme. Regular, rapid Covid-19 tests are now available to parents and support bubbles of schoolchildren as well as those who can’t work from home.
How do I get them?
If you’re eligible, you can get free tests online at gov.uk/getting-tested-for-coronavirus, and you can have them delivered or collected at certain sites. In certain parts of the country, you can also take advantage of test sites.
Whether negative, positive or even void, you should report the result at gov.uk/report-covid19-result or call 119.
A price I’m very willing to pay!
Jo Drake, 35, a freelance PR consultant and her husband Tom, 39, director of an air-conditioning company, from Wilmslow, Cheshire take rapid Lateral Flow tests twice a week to ensure their five-year-old son Ted and two-year-old daughter Zara can go to school and nursery.
“From what I gather at the gates,” she says, “parents are all taking the tests and I’m glad – we each have a role to play in protecting the school. I want Ted to be at school – he needs imagine play and I can’t provide that in the way another five year old can.”
Like Harry, Jo never believed this would become a regular part of her life. But she says she’s happy to get used to it.
‘This has to be a community effort. If we all do the things we’re asked – and in the grand scheme of things they aren’t massive inconveniences – then we can get the country back to something resembling normality sooner rather than later. If the price of a normal life is a quick test twice a week I’m more than happy.’
To find out if you’re eligible and to get more information on how to get a Covid-19 test visit gov.uk/getting-tested-for-coronavirus