COVID-19: The new PCR testing rules for people who test positive

People who test positive on lateral flow devices in England will no longer be required to take follow-up PCR tests.

The UK Health Security Agency has announced this in England so that positive asymptomatic people commence their isolation time without any delays. The move will take effect on January 11 as COVID-19 is causing about a million individuals to isolate. People without symptoms who test positive on a lateral flow test are currently advised to perform a PCR test and begin their isolation period immediately after receiving the second result.

A PCR will still be required for people who have a high temperature, a new, persistent cough, or a loss or change in their sense of smell or taste, which are the three official COVID-19 symptoms. Roughly 40% of the cases are asymptomatic and this move will help them return to work sooner.

Temporary solution

According to the UKHSA, it is a temporary solution for the greater good. As the virus rates remain high across the UK it will free up capacity in laboratories for PCR tests for patients who do have symptoms. Those who test positive for lateral flows must still isolate for at least seven days and submit their test results. Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said,

While cases of COVID continue to rise, this tried and tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate COVID-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation.
It remains really important that anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately. They should also order a PCR test on gov.uk, or by phoning 119.

While the government does not collect data on people self-isolating daily, health minister Gillian Keegan argues that the people who test positive have been isolating themselves way before their tests comes positive. She further added,

So it's about a million people probably who are self-isolating right now.

Lateral flow tests for the win

As the highly transmissible Omicron continues to spread, a record number of daily cases have been documented with reports of personnel shortages in the NHS and other areas of the economy. This move necessitates isolating them for longer than seven days, specifically if the PCR result is delayed.

Boris Johnson declared on Tuesday that key workers from many businesses who keep the UK running will be obliged to take daily lateral flow tests. From 10 January, 100,000 workers in England businesses, from food processing to transportation to Border Force, would be required to take a test every day they work. Ministers are also likely to declare that pre-departure testing for visitors returning to the UK will no longer be needed.

COVID: New rule confirms PCR testing has been scrapped for these people COVID: New rule confirms PCR testing has been scrapped for these people