All the new lateral flow rules explained – ahead of major Covid test change TOMORROW

NEW lateral flow testing rules are coming, with changes in place within 24 hours.

From tomorrow you won't have to do a PCR if you test positive on a lateral flow and don't have symptoms.

The change is being brought in to relieve some pressure on the PCR tests, and to stop any potential extra spread.

The rules are quite straightforward – if you test positive on a lateral flow, you isolate and assume you have Covid.

If you don't have symptoms you don't need to do anything else, other than log your result on the Government website.

Stay at home for the next week, only allowed to leave isolation if you test negative on days six and seven.

But you have to remain isolating if you keep coming up as positive for two consecutive tests, 24 hours apart.

Brits should be using lateral flows regularly, while Omicron is still spreading – before going to events, meeting up with friends and just throughout the week.

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You should always get a follow-up PCR test if you have symptoms of the coronavirus, regardless of your lateral flow test result. 

The NHS lists the three classic signs of Covid as a new, persistent cough, a high temperature and loss of smell or taste.

But many more including cold-like symptoms are now accepted as signs you could have the virus.

Experts have said, if you feel under the weather at all, do a test.

Dr Alexander Edwards, Associate Professor in Biomedical Technology, University of Reading, said: “The motivation for the UK system still requiring PCR confirmation more recently is likely to do with monitoring virus variants, rather than confirming the original lateral flow result.”

There are a number of other exceptions to the rule-change, outlined by the Government:

  • people who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will still be asked to take a confirmatory 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
  • around one million people in England who are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid are involved in new research of treatments
  • in Wales, those who are in a “clinically vulnerable” group will still need to take a PCR test.

Dr Hayley Jones, Senior Lecturer in Medical Statistics, University of Bristol, said: “At current high levels of infection in the population, it’s sensible to assume you’re infectious if you have a positive lateral flow test result, without a ‘confirmatory’ PCR. 

“But it’s crucial to remember that the reverse is not true: a negative lateral flow result doesn’t guarantee that you don’t have Covid-19 or that you’re not infectious.

"So it remains important to get a PCR test if you have symptoms regardless of a negative lateral flow result.”

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Given that lateral flow test results are almost always correct for a positive result, it is unnecessary to double check with an NHS PCR test.

PCR tests are the top standard of Covid testing and are available at drive-throughs, walk-ins and can be sent to the home. The lab gives results in around 24 hours.

Lateral flow tests, on the other hand, are slightly less accurate and give results in less than 30 minutes. Also called “antigen tests”, they are done at home. 

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