Analysis shows 99.9% accuracy of lateral flow tests for COVID-19

Analysis shows 99.9% accuracy of lateral flow tests for COVID-19
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A new analysis has shown that lateral flow device tests for COVID-19 have an accuracy of 99.9% with an extremely low rate of false positives.

NHS Test and Trace has conducted further analysis of rapid testing using lateral flow device tests which has shown that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result. The data was taken from community testing, rapid testing in educational settings, and asymptomatic test sites. Rapid testing using lateral flow tests detects cases in under 30 minutes, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately.

Accurate testing

Regular testing is a vital tool in the fight against coronavirus transmission as lockdowns begin to ease as sections of society are reopened, and this new analysis reinforces that lateral flow devices are accurate and reliable – and could have accuracy as high as 99.97% according to the analysis.

Regular testing is already well established for NHS and care home staff, and the government has also confirmed twice-weekly testing for free to all adults in households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children, and young people, including childcare and support bubbles. Adults can also access rapid testing through community testing, which is now offered by all local authorities in England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This new data further confirms what we know – these rapid tests are extremely accurate and are helping dramatically curb COVID-19 cases. On Monday alone, we conducted over 1.5 million tests. Around one in three people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but may still be infectious. This means they could be spreading the virus without realising it. Rapid testing can help detect asymptomatic cases quickly, preventing the virus from entering schools, colleges, or workplaces, and stopping outbreaks before they occur.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director to Public Health England and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said: “We’ve looked very carefully at the evidence that’s emerging from lateral flow device tests that have been delivered at home and in testing sites over recent weeks, and real-life scenarios suggests they are at least 99.9% specific which means that the risk of false positives is extremely low – less than one in a thousand – which is a very good test.”

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