Now that the government’s widespread testing programs during the pandemic have mostly wound down, and testing is now left mainly up to individuals, or in some cases employers, you may find yourself with a few questions about testing.
A positive COVID test can be incredibly disrupting to your work and home life, even if you are fully vaccinated and remain completely asymptomatic throughout the duration of your time testing positive.
Knowing for how long to isolate, whether to plan for a long time working from home, or whether you should be wearing a mask and avoiding your friends and family members are all important decisions that are affected by how long you test positive for. So, you may be wondering; how long after having COVID will you test negative?
Be aware, information about COVID and which measures are the most helpful in reducing transmission rates are constantly changing, so be sure to keep yourself updated with all the latest measures. If you think you may have COVID-19, read the NHS guide on what steps to take.
How long after having COVID will you test negative?
Whilst most people will start to test negative between around 5 days and 2 weeks after the first positive coronavirus test, how long it takes to test negative for COVID can massively vary, and depends on a variety of different factors.
The first issue is that it can be difficult to tell for how long you may have had COVID-19 when you receive your first positive result. If you have been testing regularly, you may be able to spot coronavirus early and thus potentially reduce the number of people that you spread the virus to.
However, even if you test as soon as you start showing symptoms, that is no real indication that you got the virus that day, or that you only became infectious on that day.
As with the flu, colds and other viruses, it will often take a few days for your body to notice and begin fighting the illness, which is when symptoms are likely to start showing. This can depend on how much of the coronavirus you were exposed to at once, the specific strain of COVID you have contracted, and how strong your immune system’s response is, amongst other factors.
Additionally, a low viral load can sometimes give a false negative test result, meaning that until a sufficient amount of the COVID virus has built up in your body, you may continue to test negative. Lateral flow tests are less sensitive than PCR tests, so a negative result on the former does not mean you would necessarily get a negative result on the latter. So, even if you are testing every single day that is no guarantee that you haven’t been infectious before your first positive coronavirus test result.
Another factor is simply how long it takes your body to get rid of the virus entirely, and sadly this means that it is possible for some people to test positive for weeks or even months in a row. However, as we will see, this may not be as disruptive to your life as it first sounds.
If you need more information about how to read results on the tests themselves, read our guide entitled What does C and T mean on a COVID test?
Does a positive COVID test mean I am infectious?
On the plus side, testing positive does not necessarily mean that you are currently contagious. According to our current understanding of COVID, the longer that you have tested positive for, the lower the chance of you remaining infectious and capable of spreading the virus to other people.
Especially with the more sensitive PCR tests, COVID tests can be extremely sensitive and pick up even the smallest amounts of viral genetic material within our bodies. Microscopic fragments of RNA can sometimes remain detectable by testing long after the last of the virus has been dealt with by your immune system.
Whilst this is good news, because a positive test does not automatically mean that you have been spreading the virus around, due to the nature of the difficulty of determining just how contagious you may be it is still recommended that you follow all guidance given by the government and the NHS.
According to this NHS guide on what to do if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) or symptoms of COVID-19, if you test positive you should try to:
- Avoid contact with other people with other people and stay at home where possible
- Avoid contact with people at a higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days, especially if they are at a higher risk of developing a serious illness from COVID-19. This applies even if the people are fully vaccinated.
- Under 18s – Avoid contact with other people for 3 days and stay at home where possible.
This advice begins from the day after you got your positive result.
Get your tests from a pharmacy
By now, hopefully you have a better understanding of the answer to the question; How long after having COVID will you test negative?
Pharmacies such as VSM Pharmacy offer speedy, inexpensive Rapid Antigen Tests which are performed in-store in Camberley, with results in 15 minutes and a UKAS registered Travel Certificate. Alternatively, if you only want some tests to do at home for your peace of mind, VSM offers a range of Lateral Flow Tests in convenient and cheap packs of 5 tests or larger packs of 25 tests for the whole family.
We also offer Fit-to-Fly COVID-19 Travel Tests, If you are travelling to a country that requires a travel certificate to prove that you don’t have COVID-19 72 hours before travelling, our Fit-to Fly Travel Test may be the right choice for you.
For information on how to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), read the NHS guide here, and for more information on COVID treatments and who is eligible to receive them, read more here.