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06th January 2022

COVID-19: PCR test not needed after positive lateral flow under temporary new plans in England

From Tuesday 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for COVID-19 will be required to self-isolate immediately but won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test.

The announcement by Government is a temporary measure while COVID-19 rates remain high across the UK. It also follows similar announcements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lateral flow tests are taken by people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who develops one of the three main COVID-19 symptoms, a new cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell, should stay at home and self-isolate and take a PCR test. They must self-isolate if they get a positive test result, even if they have had a recent negative lateral flow test – these rules have not changed.

The new approach reflects similar changes made this time last year in January 2021. This meant confirmatory PCRs were temporarily paused and reintroduced in March 2021 following a reduction in prevalence.

Under this new approach, anyone who receives a positive LFD test result should:

  • Report their result on GOV.UKand must self-isolate immediately but will not need to take a follow-up PCR test
  • After reporting a positive LFD test result, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace so that their contacts can be traced and must continue to self-isolate

There are a few exceptions to this revised approach that includes:

  • People who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will still be asked to take a confirmatory PCR if they receive a positive LFD result, to enable them to access financial support
  • People participating in research or surveillance programmes may still be asked to take a follow-up PCR test, according to the research or surveillance protocol

In line with the reduced self-isolation approach announced on 22 December, anyone who tests positive will be able to leave self-isolation 7 days after the date of their initial positive test if they receive 2 negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 6 and 7.

The rules also changed in Northern Ireland on 5 January and in Scotland and Wales on 6 January.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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