Number of rapid Covid-19 tests carried out in England at lowest for five weeks

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The number of rapid Covid-19 tests carried out in England has fallen to its lowest level in five weeks – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week.

Just under 4.9 million rapid tests were conducted in England in the week to May 19, according to the latest Test and Trace figures – down 4% on the previous week.

It is the fourth week in a row that the number has decreased.

Rapid tests, or lateral flow device (LFD) tests, are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less without the need for processing in a laboratory.

Some of these tests are conducted under supervision in settings such as schools, care homes and workplaces, but most are carried out by people in their home who are then expected to report the result.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The number of rapid tests peaked at just over 7.6 million in the week to March 17, which coincided with the return of secondary students to school.

The number fell in subsequent weeks, before rising to just under 5.8 million in the week to April 21.

Since then the total has dropped every week.

The latest figures also show that 974,412 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were conducted in the week to May 19.

This is the second highest weekly total since the end of March – the highest being 991,765 tests in the week to May 12.

PCR tests are swab tests that are processed in a laboratory, and are used mainly for anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms and to confirm a positive rapid test result.

In total, 14,051 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to May 19.

This is broadly unchanged (down 0.2%) on the previous week, but up 5% on the week to May 5.

Positivity rates among travellers arriving in England from India, Pakistan and Turkey, all of which are on the Government’s “red list”, have fallen since the last Test and Trace update.

Of the 6,088 people arriving from India tested in the two weeks to May 19, 292 tested positive for Covid-19 – a rate of 4.8%, down from 7.6% in the previous two weeks.

For Pakistan, of the 2,280 arrivals tested in the most recent period, 55 were positive: a rate of 2.4%, down from 5.0%.

And for Turkey, 1,142 people were tested and 16 were positive: a rate of 1.4%, down from 2.9%.

People arriving in England who have visited or passed through a country where travel to the UK is banned (so-called “red list” countries) are required to quarantine in a hotel.

Currently only British or Irish nationals, or people with residence rights in the UK, are allowed to do this.