PCR No Longer Required To Confirm Covid-19

From today, people in NI who get a positive lateral flow test should presume that they have Covid-19 and that they are infectious – a PCR test will no longer be required to confirm the result.

Anyone who test positive must now self-isolate immediately for the required period.

Announcing the new arrangements, the Department of Health stressed that it remains extremely important that you report your positive lateral flow test. This will trigger contact tracing processes to alert people you have been in close contact with and to provide them with advice regarding their potential to become infected and spread the virus.

If you have a condition that puts you at highest risk from COVID, reporting your lateral flow test will alert your clinical team to your positive result.

Lateral flow results should be reported on the .gov.uk website. 

If you cannot use the online service, you should call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines) to report the result of your lateral flow test.

The removal of the requirement for a confirmatory PCR testing is a temporary measure in response to the very high prevalence of COVID-19 in NI at present. When prevalence of COVID is high, a positive lateral flow test is a reliable indicator of current COVID-19 infection.

The Department of Health added: "With infections at the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic and demand for tests very high, it makes sense to use LFD and PCR tests where they have the most impact in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the most vulnerable.

"If you have a positive COVID-19 test, the earliest you can end your period of self-isolation is on day seven - providing your lateral flow tests on day six and seven are both negative and you do not have a high temperature. Your day six and day seven lateral flow tests should be at least 24 hours apart. If either is positive, you should continue to isolate until you get two negative lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart, or after you have completed 10 full days of isolation – whichever is earlier."

Associate Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Joanne McClean said: "If a person gets a positive lateral flow result they should assume they have COVID-19. While removing the need for a confirmatory PCR test will help free up PCR capacity, it ensures that PCR tests are focused where they will give most public health and clinical benefit given the current high levels of disease.

"This includes maintaining PCR testing for those who are clinically vulnerable, allowing new COVID-19 treatments to be deployed in the event of a positive test.

"I would really underline the importance of people reporting the results from their lateral flow tests. This allows contact tracing to be initiated and also helps us to monitor the progression of the pandemic."

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