Omicron: New PCR Testing Rules Come Into Force Today

| Last updated 

New PCR Rules UK Covid - Alamy Alamy

The UK Health Security Agency has revealed new guidance in relation to PCR testing following a lateral flow result. 

Following rising cases brought on by Omicron, changes to testing for coronavirus and alterations to the self-isolation period have continued to be made by the government in a bid to battle the surge, but also stem the growing amount of people who have been required to take time off work.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since reduced the isolation period from 10 to seven days, following two negative lateral flow results – this period could be further lowered to five days.

However, changes to PCR testing are also now set to come into place today, January 11, to relieve pressure off testing labs.

Positive COVID test (Alamy)Alamy

Previously, members of the public were required to take a PCR to confirm a positive lateral flow result. Now, the government is adapting these rules so asymptomatic people can isolate straight away after receiving the lateral flow result.


Not only would this cut down isolation times, requiring people to isolate for seven days from the lateral flow opposed to the PCR, but the move is also set to free up the UK’s labs, which are currently under strain from the rise in cases.

According to Metrolabs in the UK can take in 800,000 per day. However, last month, amid the rise of the latest variant, they were pushed to their brink, leaving many unable to book a follow-up PCR test after a lateral flow result.

Rules have been updated so that asymptomatic people who receive a positive lateral flow result will be required to self-isolate immediately and not follow-up with a PCR to confirm their results. Those who have symptoms of Covid-19 are still required to book a PCR test.

The change has been noted as being a temporary measure given the severity of the current number of cases, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported.


UKHSA also reassured that people with ‘high viral loads who are most infectious’ are 80% likely to test positive on lateral flows, with fewer than three false positive results per 10,000 tests taken.

Covid-19 testing (Alamy)Alamy

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of UKHSA, said the update was part of a ‘tried and tested approach’ that has already been implemented in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

She said:


With Covid cases high, we can confidently say lateral flow tests can be used to indicate Covid-19 without the need for PCR confirmation.

If you test positive on an LFD, you should self-isolate immediately and register your result to allow contact tracing to take place.

It also remains really important that anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms self-isolates and takes a PCR test via, or by phoning 119.

Harries said she was ‘grateful’ to the public ‘and all our critical workers who continue to test regularly and self-isolate when necessary, along with other practical and important behaviours to limit transmission of the virus’.

‘This is the most effective way of stopping the spread of infection and keeping our friends, families and communities safe.’

Exceptions to the new rule include those who want to claim payment through the Test and Trace Support, those who are involved in research, or those who have recently returned to England and tested positive on day two of being back in the country.


If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want up to date advice, visit the help page here. If you need medical help call NHS 111 or visit online

Topics: Health, COVID-19, Now


  1. Metro

    PCR tests scrapped for people without symptoms who test positive on lateral flows

Poppy Bilderbeck
More like this

Chosen for YouChosen for You

Film & TV

Chilling story of the real life woman behind The Orphan

an hour ago

Most Read StoriesMost Read

Angelina Jolie filed shocking abuse claims against Brad Pitt

5 hours ago