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COVID-19 FAQ: Rapid non-symptomatic COVID-19 testing

Our rapid on-campus COVID-19 testing is open in the Sports Hall on Whiteknights campus for those not displaying symptoms.   

Twice weekly testing is also available to everyone living in England and you can find out more on the government website

Please note: if you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell, you should book a PCR test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know. Please do not visit the testing centre at the Sports Hall. 

Students can find information about lateral flow testing on Essentials. 

Students, staff and members of the public can  also contact our dedicated COVID-19 Support Hotline at This inbox will be monitored daily from Monday to Friday.

Please note: members of the public cannot book COVID-19 tests through this service. If you need to book a COVID-19 test, please call the NHS on 111 or visit the GOV.UK website.

How often should I take a test?

Following updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE), staff and students who are on campus are strongly advised to take a Lateral Flow Test twice a week, ideally 3 days apart. Although not mandatory, testing can identify those who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 but are unknowingly carrying the virus.

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Who is eligible for a test at the SportsPark testing centre? 

The testing centre at the SportsPark will be open for all students (including PGR and placement students). Testing at the centre is also open to some staff: 

  • You must a current University of Reading staff member 
  • You must not be displaying any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change to you sense of taste/smell) 
  • You must be working on/expecting to work on campus this term 
  • You must have read and understood the privacy information 
  • You must consent to participation in the test programme. 

You should not book one of our Lateral Flow Tests on campus if you are required to self-isolate after arriving from overseas.

Please see our advice if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19.

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Can I get a lateral flow test on campus if a member of my household is a school pupil?

With the reopening of primary and secondary schools in England on Monday 8 March, the government has advised households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary pupils and staff to take a twice-weekly lateral flow test to prevent non-symptomatic spread of the virus.

Tests for members of these households cannot be carried out at the SportsPark, except for staff or students who are currently working or studying on campus.

There are a range of options for household members of school pupils and staff to get tested, including ordering home testing kits for delivery or collection, as outlined on the government website. Your household member's school will advise you on how you can collect or order testing kits. The walk-in testing centre at the Great Hall at our London Road campus will be offering a collection service, but you should only use this if it is the site recommended by the school.

In line with government guidance, we are seeking to keep the number of people on campus to a minimum and would therefore discourage anyone making an additional journey to campus to get a test.

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How do I book/order a test? 

You can book a test on campus at the SportsPark Rapid Test Centre or at one of the many community LFD test sites, or alternatively free home test kits can be ordered on the NHS website.

At the SportsPark Rapid Test Centre, you can book the following: 

  • a staff rapid test for colleagues who do not have any accessibility requirements 
  • a student rapid test for students who do not have any accessibility requirements 
  • an accessible or supported test for colleagues or students who may need extra assistance or space to take a test, or who need to request adjustments because of a disability. 

With so many options now available, booking numbers at the SportsPark Rapid Test Centre have dropped, and so from 26 April we will be opening on Monday and Thursday mornings only.

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I/my students already have symptoms of COVID-19. Can I/they take a rapid test? 

No, the rapid Lateral Flow Test we are offering is available to those not displaying symptoms. If you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell - you should book a PCR test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know. You must not visit the test centre in the Sports Hall if you have symptoms. 

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Do I need to take a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) if I have already had COVID-19?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days you are likely to have developed some immunity to it. For this reason, you may choose not to take an LFT during this period. If you develop new COVID-19 symptoms during these 90 days you should take a PCR test. 

You must begin a new period of self-isolation if you:

  • decide to take an LFT and the result is positive
  • develop new symptoms
  • are identified as a close contact of a positive case.

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Should I continue to take regular lateral flow tests even if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Public Health England recommends you continue regular lateral flow testing even after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. It is not yet known whether vaccination stops people from catching and passing on the virus, so you may still unknowingly spread the virus on to others, including those who have not yet been vaccinated. Additionally, despite demonstrating a high level of protection against COVID-19, no vaccine is completely effective, which means you could still become infected with the virus despite having been vaccinated, although your symptoms should be less severe.

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Will my lateral flow test results be affected if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. The vaccines being used produce a protective immune, or antibody, response which does not affect the nose and throat swab test. The lateral flow test (LFT) detects a different protein of the virus than the one encoded in the vaccine, and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test detects different genes of the virus than the one included in the vaccine.

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Will students need to show proof of a negative test?

We will strongly encourage all students to participate in regular testing, although students will not be required to provide evidence of a negative test result in order to attend face-to-face teaching.

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What type of test are you offering? 

We will be using the Lateral Flow Test (LFT) provided to universities by the government. This is different from the PCR test offered in national NHS testing centres. 

Free PCR testing through the NHS system is only available to those displaying symptoms. The free LFT testing we are offering will be available to those not displaying symptoms to provide reassurance that you are not unintentionally transmitting the virus.  

If you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell - you should book your test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know so we can support you. 

You should not book one of our Lateral Flow Tests on campus if you are required to self-isolate after arriving from overseas.  

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What can I expect when I get tested? 

The Lateral Flow Test that the government is providing to universities involves a swab of the nose and throat that is quick and easy to administer, with the whole process of registering and self-administering the swab the test taking no more than 20 to 30 minutes. You will also get results quickly, usually within 20 to 30 minutes, delivered by text message or email. 

Just follow these five simple steps. 

Step 1 - Prepare for your appointment. You must bring:  

  • your staff card
  • a face covering (make sure you are wearing one prior to entering the Sports Hall)
  • a mobile phone
  • hand  sanitiser  if you have some. 

Step 2 - Arrive at the Sports Hall. When you book, you will select a time slot for your test. Please arrive 10 minutes before your booking time and follow all signs and one-way systems directing you to the testing centre, observing social distancing requirements.  
Step 3 - Register by scanning a QR code using your mobile phone. If you do not have a phone that can scan a QR code, an alternative means of registering will be provided. You will be given a registration card and some unique bar codes that will identify the test as yours. Attach one bar code to your registration card for your record. Someone will direct you to a testing booth.

Step 4 - Take your test. In the booth, you will be given a swab to use to take a sample from your nose and throat. There will be a staff member there to provide advice and guidance and you can prepare by watching a short NHS video on how to do the test.  
Step 5 - Leave your test kit for processing. You do not have to wait for your test result and you can leave as soon as you have handed over your test kit. You will receive your result by text message and email, typically in 30 to 60 minutes.  

It is especially important that people follow government guidance on hygiene, including hand washing before leaving and throughout the process of attending a testing site.

Travelling home in the event you test positive

Please try to have arrangements in place to travel home safely in the event that you test positive. You are advised to:

  • travel home immediately, wearing a face covering
  • travel home in your own vehicle or by walking or cycling wherever possible. If it is not possible, you should arrange for a member of your household to pick you up.
  • follow national guidance provided by the Department for Transport when travelling home
  • observe social distancing measures when travelling home: keep at least 2m away from other passengers, keep windows open, wear a face covering, face away from other passengers, avoid touch points, wash your hands before and after the journey, and use hand sanitiser at regular intervals during the journey.

Asymptomatic contacts of positives cases should go home as they would normally do. If the contact becomes symptomatic, they should follow same travel advice as positive cases.

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 What should I do if I test positive/negative?

If you do not receive your result after 24 hours, please call the NHS Track and Trace Team on 119 and they will support you.   

If you test positive: 

  • You and your household must self-isolate immediately for 10 days and let us know by contacting your line manager as soon as possible so we can support you and your close contacts, and help you to get a priority confirmatory PCR test*

  • Those with a positive lateral flow result must take a confirmatory PCR test on the same day (or as soon as possible) and you can leave your home for the follow-up test. If the follow-up PCR test is negative, then you and everyone in your household can stop self-isolating, unless you develop the main symptoms of COVID-19 or are told you must continue to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace. If the follow-up PCR test is positive, you and your household will need to self-isolate for 10 full days from the time of the positive lateral flow test (this includes the day of the test and the next 10 full days).

* Following a decrease in the prevalence of the virus in England, Public Health England have reintroduced the requirement to take a confirmatory PCR test after a positive lateral flow result. This change comes into effect from 30 March 2021.

If you test negative:  

  • Best clinical practice recommends that you continue to take twice weekly tests three days apart. This is because the amount of virus in your system might be too low very early on in your illness to show up. You can book your Lateral Flow Tests a week in advance but you must remember to cancel them if your circumstances change and you no longer require them. 

You should continue to follow government guidance closely following all safety measures in place.

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What happens if I don't receive an email or text message with my result after taking a Lateral Flow Test? 

You will receive your result by text message or email, as you selected when registering, typically 30 to 60 minutes after taking the test. If you don't receive your result, please contact the NHS Test & Trace Enquiries Service by calling 119 (from 8am to 8pm). Please do not contact the University's COVID support hotline - your test result is registered with the NHS only and the University does not have access to your test information or your result. 

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Who is going to be operating the testing service? 

The tests are supplied by government and the results are processed and communicated by the NHS. Our testing centre on campus is being managed ‘in-house' and will be led by experienced University colleagues, supported by colleagues from across the University and students working for Campus Jobs. They will not have access to your test result. 

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What are the financial implications of offering testing? 

The government will be reimbursing universities for the costs of administering testing in December 2020 and January 2021 up to a fixed limit. To keep our costs as close to the government cap as possible and to minimise the financial implications for the University, we are managing as much of this process as possible ‘in-house'. 

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