Coronavirus testing rules in England will be eased next week as concerns grow about the country’s testing capability and the continuing impact of staff shortages on critical public services.
Among changes announced by the British Health Security Agency on Wednesday, January 11, are individuals who are asymptomatic and who test positive with a lateral flow device will be expected to report their outcome and isolate themselves, but will not be advised to take a follow-up PCR test.
Previous government guidance said: “Anyone whose rapid test returns positive or who develops Covid-19 symptoms should isolate himself and take a confirmatory PCR test to verify the result.”
People who are eligible for the £ 500 test and trace support payment will be exempt from the scheme, as well as those who participate in research or supervision programs, or who have been identified by the NHS as candidates for new Covid-19 treatments.
To confirm the decision, Dr Jenny Harries, CEO of UKHSA, said: “While cases of Covid continue to increase, this proven approach means that LFDs can be used with confidence to detect Covid-19 infection without the need. to PCR confirmation. ”
Last month, the government reduced the 10-day self-isolation period, meaning individuals receiving a negative lateral flow result on the sixth and seventh day of their self-isolation period could terminate their quarantine.
However, unvaccinated individuals should still be isolated for 10 days after testing positive or coming into contact with people who have it.
Prior to the announcement Wednesday, Health Minister Gillian Keegan revealed that about 1 million people across the country are currently isolated.
“We are not actually collecting that data on a daily basis, but it’s clear when you look at how many people tested positive yesterday – that was around 215,000 – that they will all naturally be self-isolating from the previous days,” she said to Sky News.
“So, it’s probably about one million who are currently self-isolating.”
In a briefing in Downing Street on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the fight against coronavirus was far from over and that the NHS was on a “war base” as the number of new daily coronavirus infections reported across the UK reached a high of 218,724. .
At least six NHS trusts across the UK have declared critical incidents due to staff shortages related to the Omicron coronavirus variant, while in Greater Manchester 17 hospitals suspended non-urgent operations.
Johnson conceded that public services were likely to be “disrupted by staff absences”, but argued that the government was acting to protect critical national services and to keep supply chains open.
Of January 10, 100,000 critical workers in sectors such as food processing and transportation will have increased access to lateral flow tests, while relevant organizations will be sent direct test kits, Johnson said.
Johnson warned in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the next few weeks would be challenging, especially for the NHS, and reiterated the need to adhere to Plan B measures in England, which include the use of Covid-19 certificates. stay-at-include. home guidance and enhanced mask wear within environments such as schools and public transportation.
“The Prime Minister said the UK’s balanced approach, coupled with new evidence that Omicron is less serious than Delta, means it is ready to uphold the Plan B measures, with a further review before the regulations expire on 26 January, “said a cabinet lecture.
Johnson will appear before MPs at 3pm for the first prime minister’s questions of the new year and will face Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner after leader Sir Keir Starmer tested positive for coronavirus.
Johnson will then provide a coronavirus update to the House of Commons, outlining the government’s position and latest data, including on NHS pressure.