COVID testing is changing: keep logging your tests and symptoms in the ZOE app

February 28, 2022

This article has not been updated recently

How is COVID testing changing in the UK?

We’re now two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic and the situation is continuing to evolve.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now announced that the rules on self-isolation will be lifted in England, along with an end to free mass testing for all but the most vulnerable and care workers, with other nations of the UK making their own announcements.

This marks a significant change in how we live with the virus, and means that most people will no longer be able to order free lateral flow tests through the NHS or get a PCR test on demand, including ZOE COVID Study contributors.

The good news is that the ZOE COVID app was first launched in a world before lateral flows and widespread PCR tests existed. As free testing is scaled back, it’s more important than ever that our Contributors continue to log daily health reports and the results of any tests in the app, whether positive or negative.

Why do I still need to log test results in the ZOE app?

Back in May 2020 we proved that we could predict whether someone was likely to have COVID-19 based on symptoms alone, publishing our findings in the high-profile scientific journal Nature Medicine. However, we still relied on test results reported in the app to validate our predictions.

We’ve continued to update and refine our prediction algorithm since then, to take into account the impact of vaccines on symptoms and the emergence of new variants. For example, Omicron has a different set of common symptoms compared with the ‘classic three’ original coronavirus symptoms of cough, fever and loss of smell, which the government continues to use.

Since the early days of the app our Contributors have been able to report the results of PCR, lateral flow and antibody blood tests. We know that many of you are still doing lateral flow tests on a regular or occasional basis, and this is likely to continue for a while, depending on test availability. 

We do recommend keeping one or two kits spare in your cupboard while they’re still free to order, and only testing when you start feeling different to normal and getting new symptoms.

Logging your daily health reports and any COVID test results - whatever the type and whatever the result - will help us ensure that our predictions are as accurate as possible. 

How is test logging changing in the ZOE COVID app?

We’re making some changes to the ZOE COVID app to make it even easier to report the results of your lateral flow tests. 

The current test page is being replaced by a simpler screen where you can report either a positive or negative test result with a single tap. You can also click through to report results for other kinds of tests including PCR or antibody tests. You’ll then be able to report any new symptoms you might be experiencing in the same way as usual. 

Help us keep track of COVID-19 and more

COVID testing may be winding down in the UK, but COVID-19 is still with us. We don’t know what may happen in the future as the virus evolves over the coming months and years, either here in the UK or in other countries around the world - especially those with less widespread vaccine coverage.

As we move forward through 2022, the ZOE COVID app has a vital part to play in helping us to track COVID-19 across the UK and monitor any new variants as they emerge. Our ability to detect COVID based on symptom reports will become even more important as access to testing is reduced.

If you’re not already a Contributor, simply download the app and spend a minute or two logging how you’re feeling every day, as well as reporting the results of any COVID tests you take, whether positive or negative.

And if you’ve opted in to get involved in our Wider Health Studies, you’ll also be contributing to groundbreaking research helping us to address some of our biggest health challenges, from cancer and heart disease to dementia and mental health.

Stay safe and keep logging.

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