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11th Jan 2022

Rules around covid PCR tests changed today. Here’s what you need to know

Kieran Galpin


The changes will not be permanent

The chaos and humdrum of frequently changing rules and restrictions can sometimes make living with covid all the more stressful.

New rules regarding PCR tests come into effect today, as both the UK and the rest of the world continue to battle the spread of covid-19.


So what’s changing?

Currently, people who test positive via lateral flow tests must take a PCR at the earliest given point. However from today, those who test positive with no symptoms will have to isolate for seven days from the date you took the LFT and are not required to take a PCR.

Should you test positive and experience symptoms, then you are still required to take a PCR and isolate for the given amount of time.

The move was announced last week and it’s believed it will free up labs to test samples for those who have covid symptoms.

“This is a tried and tested approach. With COVID cases high, we can confidently say lateral flow tests can be used to indicate COVID-19 without the need for PCR confirmation,” said chief executive Dr Jenny Harries from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

UKHSA have also stated that the change is not permanent but instead in response to growing numbers putting a strain on testing resources.

They said: “This is a temporary measure while Covid-19 rates remain high across the UK. Whilst levels of Covid-19 are high, the vast majority of people with positive [LFT] results can be confident that they have Covid-19.”

What are the exceptions?

There are of course some exceptions to the new rule, most notably that those wishing to claim the £500 self-isolation Test and Trace Support Payment will need to take a confirmation PCR.

If you are taking part in research or surveillance programs may still be asked to do a follow up lateral flow, a those who have a positive two-day test after arriving in England.

Finally, if you are considered high risk and have been identified as eligible for experiment treatments, you should receive a PCR kit at home around mid-January.

This comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson admits he is considering dropping the isolation time to five days. He told reporters on January 11: “Yes of course, we are looking at that and we will act accordingly to the science as we always have.”

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