Change to UK’s Covid testing rules to prevent surge in cases before Christmas

HEALTH bosses have made a change to the UK’s testing rules in order to keep a cap on Covid in the lead up to Christmas.

The virus is being identified in tens or thousands of people each day. As the festive season approaches, this could increase.

Negative (left/centre) and positive (right) lateral flow test results

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Test results for lateral flow were negative (left/centre) or positive (right).Credit to Alamy

These swabs can be done at home and give results in under 30 minutes. 

You can order them online for free or pick them up at your local pharmacy or work place.

Initially, the Department of Health advised everyone in England to take them twice a day in order to detect cases of the virus among people who didn’t have symptoms.

Experts claim that the government has made little changes to its guidance.

According to the website, you should now take a lateral flow exam:

  • If you are in a high-risk situation, that day
  • Before you visit anyone who is at greater risk of serious illness, if they have Covid-19

A “high risk” situation is deemed one in which you’ll be in an enclosed and crowded space, such as a club or party, or there is limited fresh air.

The recommendation is to seek a NHS PCR testing immediately if you experience any symptoms of Covid.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency said: “About one in three people with Covid-19 do not have any symptoms but can still infect others.

“Taking a free rapid lateral flow test before a period of high risk will give you peace of mind that you are unlikely to be infectious and able to spread Covid-19.”

It is ahead of busy holiday season when people will be spending more time with loved ones, going to Christmas parties and shopping.

This suggests that you should do a lateral flow test if you plan to go shopping on the high street this Christmas. 

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is trying to avoid harsher measures before Christmas despite the increasing Covid epidemic in Europe.

Public warning

Layla Moran MP is the Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group Coronavirus. She said that she was “bewildered”The new testing guidelines.

She said: “It’s bewildering that before considering basic and effective preventative measures like mask wearing and social distancing, the government has leapfrogged ahead to advise the much more onerous lateral flow testing for Christmas shoppers.

“Cases and deaths have been unacceptably high in the UK since the summer and Ministers must take responsibility and offer serious solutions to avoid another cancelled Christmas.”

Experts agreed that testing needs to be made clear to the public.

Alan McNally, professor of microbiological evolutionary genomics at University of Birmingham told The Guardian: “We need really strong public messaging and for our leaders to lead by example.

“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen in the next couple of months, but if we want to avoid another dreadful Christmas because cases get out of control, then we need some new public messaging on TV and radio and to have some [prime ministerial] briefings to the public.”

McNally stated that health chiefs failed to make enough efforts to highlight the inreliability of lateral flow testing.

A positive test almost always proves correct. A negative test can be incorrect, as it may not detect the virus in all cases.

Iain Buchan is a professor of clinical informatics and public health at Liverpool University. “test before you go”Covid should not be spread unless it leads to large numbers of people moving to crowded areas that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

“The communications around ‘test before you go’ should remind people that they first need to get vaccinated and take other precautions such as wearing face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces where possible,”He stated.

The UK has other locations

People living in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are still being advised to take a lateral flow exam twice per week.

Stormont ministers are encouraging people in Northern Ireland to work from home to reduce the number of cases.

People in Scotland can present proof of a negative late flow result to be admitted to nightclubs and large events. This is after they have had their October vaccination. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned about a “precarious”position in Scotland but did not expand the vaccine passport scheme to other locations.

Eluned Morgan, Welsh health minister, stated to a Plenary meeting held in the Senedd about how Wales was. “not out of the woods yet”But, they said that no changes will be made to the rules for three more weeks while the country is still at Alert Level 0.

Nicola Sturgeon allows lateral flow tests to be used for entry into venues starting December 6.

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