Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19 and Covid-19 testing
Q: WHAT IS COVID-19?
Covid-19 is a coronavirus which can cause illness in both humans and animals. The effect of the virus on an individual varies from person to person. Covid-19 is highly contagious and spreads very quickly from person to person.
Q: HOW IS COVID-19 SPREAD?
Covid-19 is thought to be transmitted through close contact with the virus. This occurs through droplets produced when a person with Covid-19 coughs or sneezes. Other people can then become infected with the virus by breathing in the droplets. Transmission can also occur when a person touches nearby surfaces and objects where the droplets have landed, and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Q: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Symptoms may not appear for up to two weeks after you have become infected with the virus. This means that it is possible to spread the virus without having any symptoms.
If present, symptoms of Covid-19 include:
- Shortness of breath.
Q: WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER A COVID-19 TEST?
Covid-19 is spreading quickly. You should consider testing for Covid-19 if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you have recently travelled to a high-risk country or you think you may have come into contact with someone who has Covid-19.
Q: WHAT IF I TEST POSITIVE?
IF YOU TEST POSITIVE
- You must immediately self-isolate to prevent spreading the virus to others
- You must also advise others you have been in touch with to self isolate
Q: WHY IS THE PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND NOT TESTING EXTENSIVELY AS IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES?
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned countries were not testing enough for the virus and likened the approach to “fighting a fire blindfolded”.
Ghebreyesus said that while there had been “a rapid escalation in social distancing measures”, such as school closures, there had not been an “urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing – which is the backbone of the response”.
“As I keep saying, all countries must take a comprehensive approach,” he said.
“But the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.
“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test. Test every suspected case.”
The likely reason that Public Health England is not testing extensively maybe to do with logistics and economy. At the moment, the test is used mainly in the NHS hospitals for diagnosing the more severely ill.
Q: WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THE TEST?
- Anyone. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 2 to 14 days. You may be infected but not have symptoms during this period and unknowingly be spreading it to others. Knowing whether you have the virus allows you to self isolate and prevent spread.
- If you test positive, it allows tracking of people you have been in contact with so that they can be isolated and reduce spread
- If your job involves being in contact with other people eg health workers, doctors, teachers etc and it is important for you to be at work. Knowing whether you are infected will help with the decision to self isolate and reduce spread particularly to the people you are looking after
- People who have symptoms, travelled to a high risk country or who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19
- Parents and carers who have some flu like symptoms and do not want to isolate themselves from their children or cared ones for 7 days unless it is COVID-19
- Other symptomatic people who simply want to know if they have contracted COVID-19 so that they can monitor their symptoms more closely
- People at the end of an isolation period and want confirmation that they are free of the virus
WHAT ARE THE TESTS AVAILABLE FOR COVID-19 TESTING?
There are 2 main tests :
- PCR Test
- A swab is taken of your throat or nose
- The PCR technique involves extracting, amplifying and identifying the viral RNA sequence of the Coronavirus nCOV-2019 (Covid-19). It is 99.9% accurate according to the laboratory
- The result can be available within 48 hours of receipt of the sample at the laboratory.
- This test can be sent out as a home kit
- This is currently the most common test used and the one used by Public Health England
- Antibody Test
- This is a blood test
- It looks for antibodies in the blood that are specific to Covid-19 confirming that the person has been infected and now has immunity against Covid-19
- If you test positive, it means you are probably immune and cannot get infected, at least in the short term, and cannot spread Covid-19
- This will be extremely useful for parents, carers, health workers, shop workers, pharmacists, nursery workers, teachers and other key workers who need to continue keeping in contact with others
- If you test negative, you will have to practice social distancing like everyone else
- The result is instantaneous
- This test is still being evaluated and validated tests are not currently available in the UK
Test number 1, the PCR or swab test is currently used by the government for diagnosing patients in the hospital and also to screen health workers. There are some laboratories selling this privately but unfortunately they have decided to ramp up the price.
Test number 2, the antibody test would be a game changer as it is instantaneous and would be much more affordable. So I would suggest we wait for this.
Update on Covid 19 testing – 28th March 2020
The antibody test is likely to be available in about 3 weeks. I have some initial information that the cost is about £5 + vat + delivery. This is a finger prick blood test, not dissimilar to a blood sugar test. Surescreen, the laboratory we are in touch with informs us that it will only be selling this to medical facilities, pharmacies etc, to conduct the test on the public.
I am not sure if Public Health England will make this available to everyone or just the key workers. We should know in a few weeks.
Update on Covid 19 testing – 29th March 2020
The German government plans to chart the spread of the disease by testing how many people have acquired antibodies. Researchers hope to have done 100,000 tests by the end of next month, which would be repeated regularly to help decide when to reopen schools and lift other restrictions.
Those shown to have developed immunity could be given a “kind of vaccination passport that allows them, for example, to be exempted from curbs on their activities”, Gérard Krause, a leading immunologist co-ordinating the study, told Der Spiegel magazine.
Hopefully, we will have access to this antibody test. This means that people who are immune can start working again. As we cannot rely on people not to lie about their immunity, I think the vaccination passport is a good idea. It should be recognised internationally so we can start travelling again.