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Covid PCR tests end for asymptomatic cases in England

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Covid PCR tests end for asymptomatic cases in England

People without Covid symptoms no longer need a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow in England.

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The change reflects the high prevalence of coronavirus in the community and the accuracy of rapid tests, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

The surge in Omicron cases has seen many with positive lateral flow tests struggling to book a follow-up PCR.

The UK has capacity for more than 800,000 daily lab tests but moved closer to its limit in December.

On 23 December, a total of 622,948 PCR tests were taken and on 28 December the figure was 630,768, government figures show.

And the demand grew further in the first week of 2022, reaching 698,502 PCR tests on 6 January and 613,496 on Sunday 9 January.

It is hoped the change will improve access to PCR tests for people with symptoms and for healthcare, transport and other key workers required to test regularly.

Those who have one of the three main Covid symptoms - high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to the sense of smell or taste - must still get a PCR test, the government said.

On Monday, daily testing of 100,000 critical workers in industries such as food processing, transport and the border force began.

Reported coronavirus cases in the UK reached a 218,724 high last Tuesday but then fell, with the latest data showing 142,224 new infections on Monday.

Announcing the temporary halting of follow-up PCR tests on Wednesday, the UKHSA said lateral flows were more than 80% effective "at finding people with high viral loads who are most infectious".

And it added that, for every 10,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there were likely to be fewer than three false positive results.

The requirement was previously suspended between January and March 2021 at a time of high virus prevalence.

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