A major change to UK Covid testing rules has come into force. Here’s everything you need to know about the rule change and when you will still be expected to do a PCR test
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A new Covid testing rule has come into effect in England as of today, January 11, under which fewer people will be required to get a PCR to test for infection.
Under this rule, someone who tests positive on a lateral flow test will no longer need to get a follow-up PCR if they have no symptoms of the virus.
If you have a positive lateral flow test, you will need to self-isolate immediately. Since you no longer need to double check with a PCR, this means your 10-day self-isolation period starts earlier. If you get a negative lateral flow on day six and seven, then you can even end your self-isolation early.
Despite the new rule, there are still over a dozen reasons when you still have to get a PCR test.
When should you get a PCR?
The government has outlined certain exceptions to the rule change. For instance, you should always get a PCR test if you have symptoms of Covid, regardless of the result of lateral flow.
This includes not just the three classic signs of high temperature, new or persistent cough and loss of smell or taste, but the more unusual symptoms that are being increasingly reported.
You should also get a PCR done if you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive, even if you are fully vaccinated.
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There are many other reasons to get a PCR test in England under government guidance. Here’s the full list:
- You’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
- A GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
- You’re taking part in a government pilot project
- You’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
- You’ve received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
- You’re in the National Tactical Response Group
- You are due to have an operation in hospital
- People who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will be asked to take a PCR so they can access financial support
- People participating in research or surveillance programmes may still be asked to take a follow-up PCR test
- The one million people in England who are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid and are involved in new research of treatments
The rules and exceptions vary between nations. For instance, in Scotland you should book a PCR test if you have had two or more void lateral flow test results.
Similarly, in Wales, anyone who is in the “clinically vulnerable” group will still need to take a PCR test if their lateral flow is positive but they have no symptoms.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.