Today, the health chiefs announced that people who have tested positive for Covid via a lateral stream test will not need to undergo confirmation PCR testing.
All previous guidance regarding backing up rapid positive tests will be deleted starting January 11.
The UK Health Security Agency, UKHSA announced the decision amid record-breaking case numbers in England.
For those suffering from Covid symptoms, this move will open up laboratory capacity for PCR tests.
Positive results on the lateral flow devices (LFDs) are required for people to immediately self-isolate without needing PCR confirmation.
UKHSA stated that this temporary measure is being taken while Covid rates in the UK remain high.
Officials claimed that, while Covid is high in some people, the vast majority of those with positive LFD can feel confident they are infected.
The UKHSA advised that people with Covid symptoms still need to have a PCR test.
People who test positive for Covid via lateral flow will no longer need confirmation PCR tests, as the UK Health Security Agency announced today. Photo: Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA
UKHSA Chief Executive, Dr Jenny Harries, stated: “While Covid-related cases are on the rise,” LFDs can confidently be used without the need to confirm PCR.
“It’s important to immediately isolate anyone suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. A PCR test should be ordered on gov.uk. Or by calling 119.
“I am really thankful to all the critical staff and the public who continue to self-isolate and test frequently to stop the spread of this virus. This is the best way to keep our families, friends and communities safe.
The change was made by health officials until the prevalence of Covid falls below one percent.
According to an infection survey by the Office for National Statistics, there was a prevalence of around four percent last week.
Experts praised this move given the number of current cases. However, they argued that PCR confirms were ‘waste-time’ in times of infection surges.
SAGE member John Edmunds, a modeller at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘This change makes a lot of sense.
‘When the prevalence is high — and it is incredibly high at the moment — almost everyone who tests positive with a lateral flow test will be a true positive.
“There’s no reason to do a PCR. This is a wasteful step and costs too much money. However, there are downsides to this step.
“We have less data on the relative frequency of different variants in the community. PCR swabs are genotyped and sequenced, so it is possible that the daily numbers of cases confirmed may require more care.
“Overall though, however, I believe that these downfalls are worthwhile.”
Sir David Spiegelhalter is the chair of Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge. He stated: “This seems like a smart move.
“We had argued in October that confirmatory PCR was unnecessary after positive lateral flow tests.
“This is especially true today: despite current infection rates, an LFD positive followed by a negativePCR would still indicate that it was likely you had the virus.
“PCRs can be used for surveillance and sequencing, as well as have legal status. However, if you want to concentrate on the isolation of people with infectious diseases, LFDs might be sufficient. They must still be reported.