Covid testing rules ‘will be relaxed to tackle staffing shortages’ as UK grinds to a halt

It is understood health officials have drawn up plans to shorten isolation periods, with only those with symptoms having to wait for a PCR test before they begin their quarantine

A nurse administers a PCR test on a woman at Dimensions Leisure Centre in Stoke-on-Trent
A nurse administers a PCR test on a woman at Dimensions Leisure Centre in Stoke-on-Trent

Britain’s Covid testing rules will be relaxed in a bid to shorten isolation periods and counter staffing shortages, it has been claimed.

It is understood health officials have made plans to limit PCR tests to symptomatic people allowing asymptomatic Britons to return to work faster.

It comes amid concerns staff absences have become as big an issue as the virus itself after 17 Greater Manchester hospitals announced they were halting non-urgent surgeries.

Bin collections are also being delayed, while trains have been cancelled and school leaders say they are preparing for online lessons to resume in the near future as children’s education suffers.

It is understood only those with symptoms will be required to wait for a PCR test


Getty Images)

Millions of those who test positive via lateral flow will no longer be required to take an accompanying PCR test, which currently delays the start of isolation, according to the Telegraph.

Only those with symptoms will reportedly be told they must wait for a PCR, meaning sufferers who are asymptomatic – estimated at 40 percent of cases – can return to work quicker.

More than 1.2 million people are currently isolating after positive tests in the last week, while hundreds of thousands more are awaiting PCR results.

The wait means many will be effectively isolating longer than the permitted seven days, which was last month slashed from 10.

The Government’s booking site has repeatedly ran out of slots, while supply of LFTs was struggling to keep up with growing demand, particularly during the festive period.

Boris Johnson speaking at Tuesday’s Downing Street briefing


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During the first Downing Street press conference of the year on Tuesday, Boris Johnson said he would advise his Cabinet during a crunch meeting on Wednesday, not to introduce further Covid measures on England.

That’s despite cases continuing to soar – with Tuesday’s count the biggest at any time during the pandemic.

The PM admitted while the NHS would need to take a “war footing” in the coming weeks with Omicron yet to peak, staff shortages across the public sector were causing “serious disruption”.

Christmas shoppers on Northumberland Street in Newcastle


Andy Commins / Daily Mirror)

Mr Johnson said another lockdown could be devastating, conceding Britain must “ride out” Omicron by sticking to the extended Plan B measures.

He went on to announce that 100,000 critical workers in sectors such as food processing, transport and the Border Force must undertake daily LFTs from January 10.

Tuesday saw a record 218,724 cases, including a backlog of 70,000 which came from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in recent days.

A UK Health Security Agency spokesman said: “The UK’s testing programme is the biggest in Europe, with over 400 million tests carried out since the start of the pandemic.

“Those testing positive with a lateral flow test should take a confirmatory PCR test as guidelines advise.

“We continue to review PCR availability and continue to make more PCR booking slots available every day.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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