People who test positive for Covid using a lateral flow test may not need a confirmatory PCR, according to new rules, but there are some exceptions.

In new temporary measures imposed by the government, which come into force today (January 11), those experiencing no Covid symtoms who test positive on lateral flows won't need to order a PCR.

However, they will still need to self-isolate.

The rule change comes amid a sharp rise in cases and case rates.

However, there are some exceptions - one of which was emphasised by Kate Blackburn, Director of Public Health for Wiltshire, during a Covid briefing on Tuesday.

Below are the three instances when you should get a PCR test.

1) When you have Covid symptoms 

Accoridng to Mrs Blackburn, the "vast majority" of individuals who get a positive LFT result "can be confident it is accurate when we have community levels so high".

For every 10,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there are likely to be fewer than three false positive results, according to NHS Test and Trace data. 

But if you have Covid symptoms, Mrs Blackburn stressed that you need to self-isolate and book a PCR. 

READ MORE: Why lateral flow tests should not be used if you have symptoms

Mrs Blackburn also stressed that it is important for individuals with Covid symptoms to self-isolate. 

"I do think though that the message can get lost some times," she said.

"Lateral flow devices are for people who do not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms of Covid-19 then you need to self isolate and book a PCR."

2) For Test and Trace Support Payments

If you are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP), then you will need a PCR test to confirm your positive result.

To be eligible you need to be on a low income and meet all of these conditions:

  • you’re employed or self-employed
  • you, or a child you’re the parent or guardian of, has tested positive for coronavirus, or been told you or the child are a close contact by NHS Test and Trace
  • you cannot work from home and will lose income by self-isolating or staying at home to care for the child
  • you’re not exempt from self-isolating
  • you need to claim within 42 days of you or the child’s first day of self-isolation.

Find out more on the TTSP government website

3) If you are participating in research programmes or at high risk

People who are participating in a government research or surveillance programme may be asked to take a follow up PCR test. 

Around one million people in England who have been identified as vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 by the NHS will receive priority PCR kits at home by mid-January, according to the government. 

This is to be used if they develop symptoms, as they may be eligible for new treatments if they receive a positive PCR result.

The tests will be given prioritised laboratory handling, so this group should make sure to use the priority PCR tests sent to them rather than the ordinary tests.

READ MORE: 5 Covid hotspots in Wiltshire - and the only 5 places where cases didn't go up

Apart from in these situations, individuals who receive a positive lateral flow test should self-isolate according to government guidance from today, January 11.

On why the new measures have been put in place in regard to PCRs, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: "As Omicron cases continue to rise the demand for tests has grown rapidly across the globe.

"We’re putting plans in place to manage the demand for PCR tests in the UK so we can ensure that those who most need tests can continue to access them."

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