Although there has been on-going demand for COVID-19 testing, it’s only recently that tests have become widely available to members of the public. While critically ill people and NHS staff have been given first priority in terms of testing, improved capabilities mean a larger number of tests can now be processed.
While laboratories are still operating at maximum capacity, many firms have expanded their facilities in response to the pandemic. Using emergency medical freezer trailers to store samples and working around the clock, scientists have been processing coronavirus tests at a consistently high rate.
Due to the success of the expansion, tests have now been made more widely available to members of the public. If you’re showing moderate or even mild symptoms of COVID-19, it may be possible for you to request a test and obtain the results in a relatively short time frame.
Although the availability via the NHS remains variable depending on your location, an increasing number of private healthcare providers are offering COVID-19 test kits. While there is a cost involved, many people have been willing to pay for testing services in order to confirm whether or not they have the virus.
Why Do People Want To Be Tested?
If you are experiencing symptoms that are consistent with coronavirus, you should still self-isolate. Furthermore, anyone in your household or anyone you have been in contact with should also self-isolate. As symptoms may not appear straight away, people who have been around you could have contracted the virus, even if they don’t feel unwell. By following the self-isolation guidelines, you can help to prevent the potential spread of the virus and keep people safe.
As people are still required to follow the isolation protocols if they believe they may have COVID-19, why then is testing so important? Providing tests can be processed and results returned in a timely manner, it could minimise the amount of time people spend in self-isolation.
If you develop symptoms which could be caused by COVID-19, for example, you’ll need to isolate for at least 7 days. People in your household or those you’ve been in contact with will need to isolate for at least 14 days. Of course, without access to testing, you’ll need to follow these isolation rules, even if you’re unsure whether or not you have COVID-19.
However, if you can undergo testing and it’s confirmed that you do not have coronavirus, you would no longer need to self-isolate. Similarly, the people who were self-isolating due to your symptoms and their close proximity to you, would no longer need to isolate either.
Clearly, this has major benefits for individuals. Self-isolation can be difficult to cope with, regardless of your personal circumstances. The impact on your emotional well-being could mean you feel lonely, depressed or anxious when you are required to self-isolate and these symptoms should never be overlooked.
However, there are also practical and financial concerns regarding the need to self-isolate. As many people are unable to work from home, the continued need for people to self-isolate when cases of COVID-19 are unconfirmed prevents industries from reopening and stalls the much-needed economic recovery.
Should Everyone Be Tested?
Currently, there are various different types of COVID-19 tests. One test will determine whether you have the virus at the time of the test. This test will only be useful if you’re currently displaying symptoms that are related to coronavirus or if you’ve been close to someone who has developed symptoms.
Another type of test that’s being used is known as the antibody test. This is designed to show whether you have COVID-19 antibodies in your body. If so, it’s generally presumed that you have already had the virus. However, this type of test may not be as useful as previously hoped.
As yet, there is no confirmation that you can’t contract COVID-19 twice, so having antibodies may not prevent you from catching the virus again. Furthermore, there is uncertainty about whether everyone who has had the virus will test positive. Due to this, widespread antibody testing is not currently being rolled out in the UK.
Is a Vaccine Nearly Ready?
As tests become more widely available, there are hopes that we’re getting closer to finding a vaccine for COVID-19. Although there have been varying timelines given by scientists, research organisations and the government, it is hoped that we are getting closer to developing a vaccine that can successfully protect us from the virus. Until then, however, the use of coronavirus tests, along with continued self-isolation regulations and social distancing measures, are required to try and bring the pandemic to an end.