Covid testing rules relaxed for people without symptoms, government announces

Covid testing rules must be relaxed for those infected in England who do not show symptoms, the government said.

Those who test positive for Covid with a lateral flow device will no longer need a follow-up PCR to begin their isolation period if they are asymptomatic, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

The policy change, implemented from Jan.11, is part of efforts to tackle staff shortages nationwide, with hundreds of thousands of workers across the country on work stoppage for cause of Covid.

People who test positive with a rapid lateral flow device will still need to self-isolate for at least seven days, starting from the day of their result. This reduces the time spent waiting for confirmation via a laboratory PCR test.

The guidelines are temporary and will be withdrawn once infection rates in England come down, the UKHSA said. People with symptoms of Covid should always take a PCR test and self-isolate if they are positive, the agency added.

Scientists welcomed the change in policy, saying it would also ease pressure on overwhelmed UK testing labs, but warned people must report their results on the government website.

“When the prevalence is high – and it’s incredibly high right now – almost everyone who tests positive with a lateral flow test will be true positives,” said Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Science Advisory Group for emergency room.

“It really doesn’t have to be confirmed with PCR, a step that not only wastes time but costs a lot of money and uses lab resources that could be better used elsewhere.”

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