Poster with two test vials and the text 'Get tested twice a week. Every week. Stay COVID-safe. Keep protecting the community'.
Get tested twice a week. Every week. Stay COVID-safe. Keep protecting the community.

Symptom-free testing for COVID-19

Last reviewed 13 May 2021

If you are working or studying on site, you are strongly encouraged to  get tested for  COVID-19 twice a week, every week in Trinity term.  This  includes  any member of staff or student who is  accessing University or college buildings, as well as students  resident at their term-time address. 

You should  go to  one of the  University’s symptom-free (LFD) testing centres  to get tested.  These are located  in easy-to-access sites around Oxford (further details below),  and  they  follow  strict safety measures.  

Testing is free and convenient, and there will be staff on hand to assist you. 

Regular symptom-free (Lateral Flow Device) testing can  detect whether you have COVID-19  before you develop symptoms.  It is  an important tool in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, and will help to protect the community.  

If you are a student returning for Trinity term, you must take two tests via your college before using the regular symptom-free testing service. Please go to the student coronavirus webpage for more information about these tests. 

BOOK A SYMPTOM-FREE TEST

(please note: SSO required)

**NEW 13 May** ‘LFD Collect’ tests to be available from 24 May
After 24 May the University plans to offer all those studying and working on site a new way of obtaining Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, via a new ‘LFD Collect’ service.  Staff and students will be able to pick up pre-packed LFD test kits (each with seven LFDs) from their college, from the University’s symptom-free testing centres, or from the Weston Library, to use at home or in college.

Alternatively, the symptom-free testing centres will also be available, as well as other Government testing routes. As the number of people living and working in Oxford increases, regular testing will be increasingly important – and staff and students will be able to choose the testing option that works best for them.

From 24 May, staff and students using LFD Collect or self-testing kits from other Government routes, must report their results to both the University and the NHS. This doesn’t need to be done if they are tested via the University’s symptom-free testing centres.

More information about LFD Collect and reporting LFD test results will be available soon on this webpage.

Where to find our sites 

Testing centres are located at the University Club (Mansfield Rd)St Luke’s Chapel (Radcliffe Observatory Quarter); and at the Richard Doll Building on the Old Road Campus.

Tests are free and convenient – you can choose a location and time that suits you, and tests are available to book  two weeks in advance.   

Who should take the tests 

Although testing is voluntary,  we strongly encourage you to participate in the programme if you are required to be on site, whether for work or study.   This includes staff and students who have been vaccinated or have had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago.

It is possible to order LFD tests via a number of other routes – details of which can be found on the Government website. Staff may choose to use non-University testing routes (for example, if they are not in Oxford, or they have irregular work patterns) where it minimises travel or is more convenient. However, we encourage students who are in Oxford to use the assisted testing centres wherever possible.

You should not take the tests if:    

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19.  You should instead book a PCR test and follow the advice you are given when you receive your result.   (If you develop symptoms between LFD tests, you must stop taking the LFD tests and have a PCR test instead.)
  • You have been asked to self-isolate by a public health official.
  • You are self-isolating due to being identified as a close contact.
  • You have had a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days.

At the testing centre

At the  testing  centre,  your University card will be  scanned  and you will be given  a  registration  card with barcode sticker.  You will be asked to register your test on the NHS Track and Trace system, either on your own phone if you have one with you, or on a device which will be provided. Staff at the site will assist you with how to register. 

Performing the tests  

Staff and students will swab themselves and then hand over the swab to an assistant who will perform the test and record it. Staff are on site to support participants while performing their swab.

Two tests per week should be performed throughout Trinity term.  Wherever possible, testing should be on the same days each week,  e.g. Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. 

There will be instructions to assist you in performing the test and help on hand if you need it. 

There is no need for you to wait 30 minutes for the result, which will usually be communicated electronically the same day.  

Staff working irregular working patterns should not make special trips into work to perform their LFD tests via University testing sites. They can take tests when they are next working on site, and we would encourage them to use community testing in between where available.

What to do if you test positive  

If you test positive in any LFD tests (including those in community testing or received from the government via another route), you must self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test, preferably through the Early Alert Service. You will receive further advice from the NHS and the University Results Liaison Team (RLT). You (and your household) should immediately self-isolate and assume you have the virus, pending the result of the confirmatory PCR test.

If you receive a PCR test result, positive or negative, through a route other than the University Early Alert service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result.

If you receive your positive result notification at University you should only use public transport to return home if you have no other option. You should strictly follow the safer travel guidance for passengers; please refer to the Safer travel national guidance.

Because the tests do not pick up every case, you may still be infectious even if you receive a negative result, so it is essential that you continue to follow all COVID precautions.

Why test students and staff who are asymptomatic for COVID-19?

Hear from our experts – Professor Chris Conlon, Chair of the University's Health Measures Advisory Group, and Professor Christopher Winearls, Clinical Director of the University's Early Alert Service – on the role of lateral flow device testing in a University setting.

Lateral Flow Device test reliability

There has been some discussion in the media about the effectiveness of Lateral Flow Devices in identifying COVID-19 infections in people who aren’t showing any symptoms.

It’s true that this form of testing does not identify all cases of COVID-19, which is why it’s essential to continue to follow COVID-19 precautions if you receive a negative result. It does, however, detect the most infectious cases in the community, those in whom the viral load is large enough to trigger a positive result. It’s also very unusual to have a false positive. Comparison studies have shown that 99.5% of positive LFD tests are confirmed by a PCR test to be true infections.

It makes a big difference each time we detect a case of COVID-19 in someone who isn’t showing any symptoms, as they can then take action to avoid transmitting infection to others.  Large numbers of staff and students taking the tests will ultimately reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Think about others. You could be next to someone who is more concerned or more vulnerable than you are. They might be looking after someone who is shielding, or be in a bubble at home with someone who is at risk of serious problems if they catch the virus. Be considerate to them by participating in the testing and following the COVID-19 precautions.

So it’s  important you take the tests; they help detect if you have COVID-19  before you develop symptoms. This:  

  • Reduces the risk that you will infect others.
  • Ensures that those who need to self-isolate do so sooner.  
  • Reduces the number of people who will need to self-isolate. 

FAQs

About the regular  symptom-free  (Lateral Flow Device)  testing 

The University will utilise the government’s higher education programme of centrally assisted testing to obtain supplies of LFD testing kits and report test results.  The centres though will be operated by University staff and students, overseen by the Early Alert Service team. 

The University continues to evaluate various future options for better and wider testing of staff and students for COVID-19.  It is constantly reviewing developments in government guidance, existing NHS/PHE facilities, local requirements and any new approved and appropriate tests as they become available.

What is the difference between a PCR and LFD test? 

A PCR (polymerase chain reaction)  test is the type used in NHS testing centres and the University’s Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service. You usually get your result within 48 hours. It is very sensitive as it can detect very small quantities of the virus’s genetic material, either from a live or a dead virus. A positive test proves the current, or recent, presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease called COVID-19. You should take a PCR test if you suspect you have symptoms of COVID-19.

LFDs (Lateral Flow Device) tests  can be performed as part of a self-testing programme; you see your result within 30 minutes. They  detect the actual components of the virus, for example its coat and spike protein, if they are present in sufficient quantities, which they are when the virus is actively proliferating in the body. A positive result therefore means there is a significant amount of living virus that could cause symptomatic disease or be transmitted to others. A negative test can be explained by the virus not being present at all,  but also by it  being there in smaller quantities, such as  in the early stage of the infection. Simply put, a positive LFD test  result  confirms an infection but with a negative  test there is a possibility you  might be incubating the virus, which is why more than one test is recommended per week.   

Who is eligible to use the regular symptom-free testing service? 

Any student or member of staff at the collegiate University may use the service who has a University card and an SSO (Single Sign On) password. 

Where is the testing service and how will I find it?  

The testing centres are located at:

Can I perform my test during working hours?

The University encourages staff to perform the testing twice a week. Staff are requested to talk to their line manager if they need to perform a test inside working hours. We appreciate there will have to be some flexibility in order for staff to attend the testing centres. 

How do I book a test? 

Booking is done online via the regular LFD Book a Test webpages. You will need to sign in using your SSO.

What if I can’t use my Single Sign On (SSO) to book a test? 

Common reasons for this are: 

  • You have completed your studies so are not eligible to use the University’s Testing Service.
  • You have not activated your SSO either because you are new to Oxford University or your job role hasn’t required IT use. You can get help activating your SSO from your college’s or department’s IT Support Staff or from the service desk at IT Services on 01865 (6)12345. 

What if I want to cancel or change the time of a test? 

You can cancel a test online. If you want to change the time, simply cancel and rebook. When attending your test, please make every effort to be on time, as late arrivals can seriously disrupt the service.  

Can I just turn up? 

For safety reasons, and to manage demand, we ask that you use the online booking service. Appointments are sometimes available at short notice, so it is worth checking.

Do the testing centres have wheelchair access? 

Yes, there is ramp access in all our test centres.

What help is there for disabled staff and students?

If your registered disability would cause any issue with testing, please contact the FM Helpdesk on 01865 (2)70087.

How should I travel to the sites?

Short-stay car parking is available at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter to access St Luke’s Chapel and at the Innovation Building to visit the Richard Doll Building on the Old Road Campus. The University Club is pedestrian or bicycle access only.

Do I have to wear a face covering? 

Yes, please wear a face covering, unless you are exempt, to protect others. 

What happens at the testing centre? 

At the  testing  site  your University card will be  scanned  and you will be given  a  registration  card with barcode sticker.  You will be asked to register your test on the NHS Track and Trace system, either on your own phone if you have one with you, or on a device which will be provided. Staff at the site will assist you with how to register. 

Staff and students attending designated testing  centres  will swab themselves and then hand over the swab to an assistant who will perform the test and record it.  Staff are on site to support participants while performing their swab.

Two tests per week should be performed throughout Trinity term.  Wherever possible testing should be on the same days each week,  e.g. Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. 

There will be instructions to assist you performing the test and help on hand if you need it. 

It is a quick and easy process. There is no need for staff or students to wait 30 minutes for the result, which will usually be communicated electronically the same day. 

How long do I have to wait for the results? 

Results will usually be communicated electronically the same day.  

What to do if you test positive  

If you test positive in any LFD tests (including those in community testing or received from the government via another route), you must self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test, preferably through the Early Alert Service. You will receive further advice from the NHS and the University Results Liaison Team (RLT). You (and your household) should immediately self-isolate and assume you have the virus, pending the result of the confirmatory PCR test.

If you receive a PCR test result, positive or negative, through a route other than the University Early Alert service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result.

If you receive your positive result notification at University you should only use public transport to return home if you have no other option. You should strictly follow the safer travel guidance for passengers; please refer to the Safer travel national guidance.

Because the tests do not pick up every case, you may still be infectious even if you receive a negative result, so it is essential that you continue to follow all COVID precautions.

What happens if I test negative? 

Because the tests do not pick up every case, you may still be infectious even if you receive a negative result, so it is essential that you continue to follow all COVID precautions.   

How accurate are the results? 

Lateral Flow Device Tests do detect the most infectious cases in the community, those  in whom  the viral load is  large enough to trigger a positive result.  It’s  also  very unusual to have a false  positive – comparison studies have shown that  99.5% of  positive LFD tests are  confirmed  by a PCR test  to be true infections.

I haven't had my result yet – what should I do?

You should receive your result soon, but there have been cases of delayed reporting from NHSTT. You can phone the NHS on 119 with your barcode number, to check whether your test has been reported to their system.

If you haven't heard back after 48 hours, please contact EAS-Enquiries email ( eas-enquiries@medsci.ox.ac.uk). 

Are there formal restrictions in place for staff and students using public transport after receiving a positive test?

Staff and students who receive their positive result notification at work/University should only use public transport to return home if they have no other option. They should strictly follow  safer travel guidance for passengers; refer to the Safer travel national guidance.

Where can I find the service’s privacy statement?

The test registration landing page directs users to the DHSC Data Privacy Notice, which explains how the DHSC processes their data.

Can I use the results of my Lateral Flow Device Tests to enable me to travel abroad? 

University PCR or LFD tests cannot be used as proof that people are negative for the virus for the purposes of international travel. The University’s Early Alert Service uses NHS services and is not available for any purpose other than the testing of people with COVID-19 symptoms, or as a way of managing an outbreak. This means that it does not produce the correct certification accepted for international travel. If you need to have proof of a negative test for international travel you must take a test through a private provider.  

When should I arrange my tests if I work variable shift patterns?   

Staff working irregular working patterns should not make special trips into work to perform their LFD tests via University testing sites. They can take tests when they are next working on site, and we would encourage them to use community testing in between where available.

Is testing compulsory?   

No, testing is voluntary. However, the risk of COVID-19 remains very high and it is essential that we as a community take all necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus. Testing is a major component of this effort and we hope that the vast majority of eligible staff and students will join us in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.   

Will the test processing operatives be able to identify people with positive tests?

The process is designed to avoid this. Results are recorded on the NHS system using barcodes and not names – operatives on site are not able to cross-reference the barcode against personal details.

Why do I need to input a mobile phone number to engage with the testing system?   

The system requests a mobile number so that public health officials can contact you in the event of a positive test.

Why do I need to record my postcode on the system before I perform my first lateral flow test?  

Public Health England (PHE) require the residential postcode to ensure that both the amount of testing being done and the results are recorded in national statistics for the right area within the UK, such as those for the Oxford area.  

Can I test if I am under 18?   

We are not currently authorised to test people under 18.

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