COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, also frequently called COVID-19 lateral flow tests or LFTs, are rapid antigen tests used to detect SARS-COV-2 infection (COVID-19). They are quick to implement with minimal training, and offer significant cost advantages, costing a fraction of other forms of COVID-19 testing and give users a result within 5–30 minutes. Rapid antigen tests are used in several countries as part of mass testing or population-wide screening approaches. They are thought to be valuable for identifying individuals who are asymptomatic and could potentially spread the virus to other people, who would otherwise not know they were infected. This differs from other forms of COVID-19 testing, such as PCR, that are generally seen to be a useful test for symptomatic individuals, as they have a higher sensitivity and can more accurately identify cases.
Rapid tests for COVID-19 emerged from major investment by the United Kingdom's controversial Moonshot program, a £100 billion program to systematically assess, develop and implement new technologies for COVID-19 testing. Rapid tests initially sat within this systematic evaluation pipeline alongside many other putative COVID-19 testing technologies like Lamp, Lampore, point of care PCR, mass spectrometry and sample pooling. However, as evaluations continued, rapid tests emerged as the most successful form of COVID-19 testing within this program to complement existing PCR testing.[citation needed ]