Posted: 11.01.22 at 14:58 by Hannah Richardson, Local Democracy Reporter for Leicestershire
The rules around testing and isolation have changed in England to help health services cope with the tidal wave of infections across the country.
Which test you should take when, and how long you should isolate for, vary depending on whether you have symptoms, how old you are and whether or not you are fully vaccinated.
Here, we explain exactly what you need to do, depending on your circumstances.
Changes to the rules around testing and isolating have been updated in light of the sheer number of positive Covid cases in the country.
Director of public health for Leicestershire County Council Mike Sandys told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that numbers are now ‘astronomical’ in the county.
He added that, despite the lower death rate associated with the Omicron variant, there is ‘an incredible amount of pressure on the NHS’ at the moment, with the number of people in Leicester hospitals last week higher than in the peak of the first wave in March 2020.
Do I need a PCR test if my lateral flow test is positive?
One of the key changes to testing in the UK is that people who do not have symptoms no longer need to get a confirmatory PCR test if they have a positive lateral flow test result.
Mr Sandys said this was a ‘pragmatic’ move on the part of the Government and would help ease the burden on testing services.
He said: “There’s so much [of the virus about] there’s no point in going for a confirmatory test to confirm something that’s blindingly obvious. I think we can guess it’s going to be Covid.
“The logic is reasonable: when you’ve got a low amount of Covid in the population, then it probably makes sense to go for a confirmatory PCR just to see if it is Covid.
“When you’re in a high prevalence area, you just know that’s what it is so there isn’t much point really in doubling up on tests.”
Laura French, acting consultant in public health at Leicester City Council, added: “It’s a sensible move to free up PCR testing capacity by advising those who have no symptoms to assume they have Covid if they get a positive result from a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test.”
Which test should I take if I have coronavirus symptoms?
If you have symptoms of Covid-19, including a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, loss or change of sense of smell or taste, you should isolate and book a PCR test.
If the test comes back positive, you should isolate for a total of 10 days. However, if you carry out lateral flow tests on day six and day seven and they both come back negative, you can leave isolation on day seven, unless you still have a high temperature.
The two lateral flow tests must be taken at least 24 hours apart, and should not be taken any earlier than day six. The day symptoms begin is considered day zero.
If either of the two lateral flow tests comes back as positive, you must continue to self-isolate either until you get two negative lateral flow tests taken at least 24 hours apart, or after 10 full days of isolation – whichever is earlier.
If you can leave self-isolation early, it is strongly advised that you limit close contact with other people, particularly in crowded spaces or poorly ventilated spaces, and minimise contact with anyone at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19.
Which test should I take if I don’t have any coronavirus symptoms but want to know if I have the virus?
If you do not have any symptoms of coronavirus but want or need to know if you have the virus, because you wish to spend time with vulnerable friends or relatives, for example, take a lateral flow test. These are available free from pharmacies.
If you have a positive lateral flow test but do not have symptoms, from Tuesday, January 11, you no longer need to take a PCR test.
If your test is positive, you should start a 10-day isolation period, with the day of the positive test being day zero.
If you get a negative lateral flow test on days six and seven – the tests must be taken at least 24 hours apart – the isolation period can be reduced to seven days.
If you develop symptoms during the isolation period, you should book a PCR test and start a new isolation period from the day the symptoms began.
If you do not have symptoms but have had a positive lateral flow test, you might also need to take a PCR test if:
• You are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment, in which case a positive PCR test is required before you can get the money.
• You are participating in a research programme and are asked to take a PCR test.
What should I do if someone I have been in contact with has tested positive for coronavirus?
If you come into contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus and you are double jabbed – and had your second jab at least 14 days prior – you do not need to isolate, but you should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
The same applies if you are aged 5-18.5 years, regardless of your vaccination status, or if you are exempt from vaccinations: you do not need to isolate, but you should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
Children aged under five do not have to do anything.
However, unvaccinated adults must isolate for 10 days.
You might also not need to isolate if you are taking part, or have taken part, in an approved clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine.
What should I do if I cannot get hold of a lateral flow test?
The UK Health Security Agency has previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that new testing supplies are made available throughout each day. They are available for collection from pharmacies, or to order via the government website.
If you cannot collect or order a lateral flow testing kit, check the government website throughout the day, as more could become available.
The agency said: “We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country.
“During periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements.”
In the meantime, if you have had close contact with someone who has tested positive and you cannot get hold of a test, you should limit close contact with other people outside your household, particularly in crowded spaces or poorly ventilated spaces.
You should also minimise contact with anyone at higher risk of severe illness if they were to become infected with Covid-19. If you can, you should work from home.
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