Published: Friday, 21st May 2021

"Why is testing important?" "I've been vaccinated, do I still need to take a test?" "What does PCR stand for?" We answer your questions on COVID testing.

Why is it important to get tested?

  • Testing is one of our best tools to stop the spread of coronavirus and coronavirus variants in Bolton.
  • As many of us as possible taking part in testing means we can track the virus, stop it spreading and also help to protect each other and save lives.
  • Testing is especially important as one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms so could be spreading the virus without knowing it.

I have been vaccinated. Do I still need to get tested?

  • Yes - by getting tested as well as vaccinated you will be helping to protect yourself and others in the town and as well as helping to stop the spread of the virus and variants.
  • Even if you have had one or two doses of a vaccine or have already had coronavirus it is still important to get tested as you could pass it on to someone else or catch it yourself.

What is the difference between a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) and a Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR)?

  • There are two main types of tests – Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Below it is outlined what the differences are, when you need to take them and why it is important to take them.

PCR tests

  • If you have ever had any of the symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature/ new continuous cough/ change or loss of your sense of taste or smell) and have needed to take a test this will have been a PCR test. You can book a PCR test via the online portal
  • These tests are sent off to a lab so we can find out if the person who has been tested has coronavirus or not.
  • As well as being used to test people with coronavirus symptoms, these are now being used to carry out enhanced testing in some areas of Bolton. This includes at mobile testing units which are being set up for people to go along to and also being delivered door-to-door.
  • We use PCR tests for this to:
    • Find people who have coronavirus but do not have symptoms
    • Carry out genomic sequencing. This is the process of testing a sample of the virus to map its genetic sequence and is used to identify variants.
  • This allows us to track the virus and variants, help to stop them spreading and also better understand new variants.
  • If your test is positive you will need to self-isolate and not leave home for any reason for 10 days from when you took the test. Support is available at or by calling the support hub on 01204 337221 (8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1.30pm on Saturdays)

Lateral Flow Tests – Free, regular, rapid coronavirus tests

  • Everyone in England can now get free, regular, rapid coronavirus tests – also known as Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs).
  • These tests can be carried out by yourself at home or you can go to a test site and give a result in just 30 minutes.
  • We should all be doing these tests twice a week as it helps us find the 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms but can still infect others.
  • If you do test positive you then need to self-isolate to help stop the virus spreading. You will then be asked to take a PCR to confirm the result and also help identify variants. If the PCR test is negative you no longer need to self-isolate.
  • You can get tests by:
    • Ordering them online
    • Collecting tests to do at home from a pharmacy or test site
    • Getting tested at a test site
  • Order your tests, book one at a test site and find out where you can collect them from on the NHS website
  • Remember, once you have done your test you need to report you results online, even if it is negative. This is important to help us monitor the spread of the virus.