Covid testing 101


To say Covid has made the last year or so difficult is a huge understatement. However, with the mass rollout of the vaccination program largely being seen as a big success, restrictions are starting to ease. We can now all go to the pub and even eat indoors. And, we can even travel to a few countries easily, while some remain on an amber list and should only be visited for good reason (with holidaying sadly not being one of them.)

Testing is one way that we can help ensure these restrictions continue to be relaxed. By purchasing travel testing kits, if you do travel abroad, you can make sure that you stem the spread of infection or variants of Covid-19. Or, by testing regularly using companies like MedicSpot, you can help get quick and accurate results if you are worried you have the virus.

But there are so many aspects to Covid testing. Whereas once Covid testing was limited and small scale, now there are so many options that it can be a little overwhelming. Our Covid testing 101 should help give you the ultimate lowdown so you know when to use tests, and why.

What types of test of there for Covid


A PCR test is the more accurate of the two types of test that are widely available. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction and it works by testing a sample for genetic material of the virus. Samples are taken from you using a swab that is put on your tonsils (or where they would have been) as well as up one of your nostrils. They can be really uncomfortable, but they should never be painful. At worst, you’ll probably find you gag a bit, but nothing more. PCR test results can be provided in 24 hours, though that may be more with some providers at bust times.

Lateral Flow

While lateral flow tests are not as accurate as PCR tests, what is great about them is that they are very quick. Results can be given in 30 minutes, meaning they are great for people to do frequently. They are just under 80% accurate when a person tests themselves within the first week of catching the virus. That drops to around 51% if a person is only testing themselves two weeks after (unknowingly) contracting the disease. Samples are taken the same way as a PCR test, but with a lateral flow test kit, the sample is tested for antigens or proteins of the virus instead of the genetic material.

When should I get tested for Covid?


Individuals should always get themselves tested if they have symptoms. When you do have symptoms, you should have a PCR test owing to their accuracy as well as the fact that they can be genetically sequenced, which helps keep tabs on the proliferation of any variants.


When you travel, testing is key to helping stem the spread of the infection. You should test before you go (in fact some countries mandate this), and you also need to test upon your return on day 2 and 8 according to current Government guidance.

Each week

While lateral flow tests are not as accurate as PCR tests, using them regularly can really help identify infection which may otherwise have slipped through the net. Given that 1 in 3 people are carrying the disease but are asymptomatic, by testing weekly, you will be able to tell to a higher certainty if you have the disease or not.

Why is it so important to get tested for Covid?

Stops the spread

While vaccinations are a huge tool to help in the fight against Covid, getting tested regularly or when you have symptoms, is also hugely important to stop a third wave. If you test positive for Covid, you know immediately to self isolate — thus protecting those around you as well as stopping the chain of transmission.

Genome sequencing

As mentioned earlier, PCR testing allows laboratories to sequence the virus. It helps identify variants that may become variants of concern. As we have all seen, variants can be more transmissible than previous mutations of the disease so that Government guidance has to be updated to employ more tools to stop the disease spreading further. Also, it helps scientists update vaccines to ensure that they remain effective in the future too.


Finally, testing for Covid as and when you can will help crack down on those instances when a person carrying the virus is asymptomiatc. This is one of the reasons it has been so hard to control. People are spreading it unwittingly. However, if people test themselves regularly, the amount of these cases decreases so that those chains of transmission are stopped again.

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Covid Testing

The UK’s ability to test for Covid is beyond recognition of where it was at the start of the pandemic. Using testing to help in the fight against the disease will help ensure the continued efficacy of the vaccines in people.

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