From today (11 January) most people with a positive lateral flow test do not need to take a PCR test to confirm they have COVID-19.
Anyone testing positive on a lateral flow device (LFD) test is advised to self-isolate immediately and register their result on GOV.UK so that NHS Test and Trace can trace their contacts.
The temporary measure was announced by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) – formerly Public Health England – while coronavirus rates remain high across the UK.
Lateral flow device (LFD) tests are to be used by people without COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who has one of the core symptoms of COVID-19 – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – should self-isolate and take a PCR test.
Chief Executive of UKHSA, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “While cases of COVID-19 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.
“I’m really grateful to the public and all of our critical workers who continue to test regularly and self-isolate when necessary, along with other practical and important public health behaviours, as this is the most effective way of stopping the spread of the virus and keeping our friends, families and communities safe.”
The temporary measure to remove confirmatory PCR tests has been introduced before – between January and March 2021.
UKHSA says around 1.7 billion LFD tests have been distributed across the UK since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – with maximum home delivery capacity now 7 million LFD tests every day.
The Prime Minister announced last week the government would provide 100,000 critical workers in England with free lateral flow tests to help keep essential services and supply chains running.
Exceptions to the change
There are some exceptions to today’s changes and certain groups will still require a confirmatory PCR following a positive lateral flow result:
- People who wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment. To claim the Test and Trace Support Payment, you must have tested positive for COVID-19 following a PCR test or an assisted LFD test.
- Those who have received an email or letter from the NHS because of a health condition that means they may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments. When they develop any COVID-19 symptoms, and they should use the PCR test kit that was sent to them in the post. If they have not received a PCR test kit they can arrange to have a PCR test.
- People who are taking LFD tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks them to take a follow-up PCR test.
- People who have a positive day two LFD test result after they arrive in England.
On 22 December the government announced anyone who tests positive can leave self-isolation seven days after the date of their initial positive test – if they receive two negative lateral flow results, 24 hours apart, on days six and seven.