There has been some confusion over the effectiveness of lateral flow devices (LFD) with a number of people contacting this newspaper having experienced negative results via the at-home testing device, but testing positive with a PCR test.

A Fermanagh man who tested positive for Covid-19 with a PCR test explained that he had previously tested negative twice on lateral flow tests.

He said: “I actually lateral flow-tested negatively twice and, having absolutely no symptoms, the only reason I went for a PCR was that [my wife] had the tell-tale symptoms, so logic told me ‘How could I not have Covid?’.

“Otherwise, I would have been moving about, bringing a risk to others, not knowing, although I did treat myself as Covid-positive until it was officially confirmed,” he told this newspaper.

Another local family experienced a similar situation. One family member had Covid-19 symptoms and tested positive with a PCR test, whereas two other family members, who had no symptoms and consistently received negative LFD results, also tested positive via PCR.

The Impartial Reporter also spoke to a woman who received mixed results when using LFDs.

The woman, who lives in Belfast but was staying with family in Fermanagh over Christmas, tested positive for Covid-19 on a lateral flow device on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas Day, but after doing another LFD on Boxing Day, she received a negative result.

Due to limited PCR tests being available over the Christmas period, the woman was only able to receive a PCR test on Monday, December 27.

On the day that she took the PCR test, she also took a lateral flow test which showed a negative result. However, when her PCR result returned, it showed that she was Covid-positive.

Talking to this newspaper, the woman explained that she had a very minor tickly cough which started on the Monday prior to Christmas, December 20.

As she was due to spend Christmas in Fermanagh with her family, planning to return home on the Wednesday or Thursday of that week, she was doing a LFD every day as a precaution.

“I tested negative on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning. I came home on the Wednesday morning after I tested negative.

“The guidelines are that you only take lateral flows if you’re going somewhere, or twice a week, so if that was the case, I could have easily missed my positive days because it was just that I took them every single day.

“Honestly, other than the fact that I was coming home, I wouldn’t even have bothered taking lateral flow tests. My cough wasn’t that bad that I would have thought, ‘I’ve got a cough’,” she said.

When asked by this newspaper, ‘Is the Department of Health (DOH) looking into the issue of LFDs showing false negative results, considering that many people are trusting this method of testing?’ a DOH spokesman responded: “No test will detect every single case, but lateral flow devices are proving to be highly-accurate and reliable, and can rapidly identify people who are infected and likely to be infectious.”

The DOH spokesperson explained that PCR tests are more sensitive and can detect the virus at lower levels than a lateral flow test, and if a lateral flow test is positive, it means enough virus is present to make the person infectious.

“When Covid prevalence is high, a positive lateral flow test means you almost certainly have Covid and that you are likely to be infectious.

“If a LFD is positive, you should assume you have Covid-19, and follow all appropriate advice.

“LFDs are good at quickly identifying people with high viral loads who are most infectious and most likely to transmit the virus to others.

“Lateral flow tests are for people who do not have symptoms of Covid.

“If you have Covid symptoms you should get a PCR even if your lateral flow test is negative.

“The advice to get a PCR test if you have Covid symptoms hasn’t changed,” added the DOH spokesperson.