The majority of high street pharmacies still do not have lateral flow testing just hours before Christmas. Shops can go more than seven days without receiving resupplies.

Boris Johnson has urged families across the country to test at home before visiting loved ones over the festive period, particularly the elderly and those who may be more vulnerable to Covid.

A ‘unprecedentedly high’ demand resulted in Britons being unable to order online tests for several days last week. This was an issue that ministers later blamed on distribution.

Many people have instead raced to the pharmacies in search of these kits. However, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which claimed it sent over 11 million rapid flow test to the stores, has now stopped sending them. 

Ministers have announced that those with the virus will be able to leave isolation from three days sooner than usual if they are negative for it on day six or seven. 

However, vendors were forced to put up posters warning customers that no stock was available. Customers are now in panic as they attempt to find the right solution before Christmas. 

A sign informing customers that lateral flow tests are out of stock is seen at a pharmacy in London

At a London pharmacy, a sign informs customers that the lateral flow test is out of stock

Is it possible to obtain lateral flow tests from the laboratory? 

There is a search tool that the NHS provides to help people find nearby pharmacies offering test collection. It is:

People can also order a pack to be delivered directly to their home. You can order one pack per day.

These can be taken to community collection points, or they can be brought by people who live near a testing site.

Anjala Sihota, a pharmacist in Bordon, Hampshire, told the Telegraph: ‘Our last box was a week ago.

‘It is quite difficult, especially with Christmas coming and people want to meet their families, they want to get tested before they meet people, which is what the Government guidelines are, and if they’re unable to get a test, then obviously the panic sets in.’

Mike Hewitson, who has a store in Beaminster, Dorset, said his last delivery of 59 kits sold out in 90 minutes, adding: ‘I’ve had more people shouting at me than at any time during the pandemic.’

UKHSA states that there has been a “supply chain issue” which caused some shops to delay receiving test orders. But, the UKHSA insists it continues to send millions every day with delivery capacities increasing to 900,000. Daily kits have increased by 900,000.

The rapid test that determines if someone has coronavirus is the lateral flow or antigen test.

The results of lateral flow tests are quick and can tell you if your body has coronavirus. They detect proteins in the throat and nose that indicate the presence of the virus.

There are many opinions among scientists about their accuracy. However, PCR tests can be extremely precise but results may take as long as three days to appear. 

They can detect genes from specific organisms, such as coronavirus. This is the most reliable way to find out if you are suffering from an infection.

The Royal College of Pathologists recommends that people without symptoms should undergo lateral flow testing.

A sign in the window of a north London pharmacy which has run out of NHS Lateral Flow Test kits

Sign in the windows of a pharmacy north London that has sold out of NHS Lateral Flow Test Kits

What accuracy are the lateral flow tests?

In July, a study published by Queen Mary University of London and Oxford, as well as the Institute for Advanced Studies based at Vienna and the Medical University of Graz, found that lateral flow testing correctly identified 89 percent of negative cases.

The Royal College of Pathologists stated that positive LFT results should be confirmed with PCR tests. People should also self-isolate their tests before receiving their PCR results.

According to the Health Security Agency, (HSA), lateral flow testing are just as effective in detecting Omicron viruses as they are for other types of coronavirus.

Although PCR tests remain the best tests for diagnosing coronavirus, they should not be used if you are experiencing symptoms.

The RCP has a fact sheet on its website that states, “These tests are very distinct from PCR. The tests cannot be used to diagnose individual patients suspected of being infected if they present with symptoms.

A PCR test is required for people with symptoms. To detect additional cases of infection, lateral flow tests can be used.

The NHS website also states that coronavirus symptoms should be confirmed by a lateral flow rather than a PCR.

According to current advice, a positive lateral flow test should be followed up by a PCR.

Before mixing in with others indoors or seeing someone at risk for getting Covid-19, it is a good idea to perform lateral flow testing.

You should also do a lateral flow testing if you have had contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Irene Petersen is a Professor of Epidemiology at University College London. She stated that Omicron’s rapid infection rate meant people need to take tests before meeting others.

The results of tests can be discarded quickly, as individuals may become infected or non-infectious within hours.

According to government guidelines, you should only take the test if you are in high-risk situations.