Omicron cases have now grown to more than 200,000 in the UK, meaning the burden could be severe for the NHS.
Not only are there more positive Covid patients, according to the current guidelines, nurses and doctors also have to isolate themselves in the event of a positive test, which puts a greater strain on the healthcare system.
However, the government is expected to announce changes to the rules on Covid testing that could help some employees get back to work earlier.
As part of these proposed changes, you would not need to run a PCR test to confirm a positive Covid case. If you test positive on a lateral flow test (LFT), take this as an official sign of a positive result instead of waiting for a PCR test and isolate immediately.
This means that if you are asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) your isolation time would be shorter as you could isolate from the day your LFT was positive instead of the day you received a positive PCR test (which can take a few days).
Anyone with no symptoms can exit isolation on day seven if they test negative for LFTs on days six and seven, according to government guidelines.
A government source told PA Media that the change was being discussed, but the details were “still being finalized”.
It follows the implementation of the Plan B restrictions in England in response to the risks of the Omicron variant.
This means that face covering is required by law in most indoor spaces, office workers who can work from home should, and certain venues and events are required by law to verify that all adults are fully vaccinated and test negative at 48 Take hours or have an exception.
Do I still have to do a PCR test?
The new rules would require that, on a positive lateral flow test (even a faint line can be positive), you pretend that it was confirmation of a positive test and start isolating right away (if you’re not sure, you can do a few tests to confirm this).
Lateral flows are mainly used in people without symptoms. If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, it is currently recommended that you do a PCR test.
People who notice the three official Covid symptoms – a high temperature, new, persistent cough, and a loss or change in their sense of smell or taste – should still do a PCR test and isolate themselves from the onset of their symptoms.
Once you’ve reached day six and are no longer symptomatic, you can begin LFTs to see if you can get out of isolation early.
What about Covid tests for travel?
Under pressure from travel companies complaining that movement restrictions are affecting the industry, ministers are reportedly expected to announce changes to PCR travel tests.
Currently, travelers returning to the UK are required to present a negative PCR which cannot be done more than two days prior to departure (except under 12 years of age).
Vaccinated passengers then have to self-isolate until they get a negative result on a post-arrival test. Unvaccinated passengers must isolate themselves for 10 days.
But that policy was reviewed about a month ago when Omicron cases were slowly emerging. With the UK now hitting nearly 250,000 cases of the variant, the airlines are now saying we don’t need any further testing to contain the spread from other locations as the UK’s own numbers are so high.
If the government follows advice, travel PCR testing could be phased out in favor of cheaper, faster cross-flows.
A government spokesman said they would keep any measures “under review”, adding that the current restrictions were added to “prevent more Omicron cases from entering the UK and preventing people from disclosing them to others, if they are infected ”.
According to the BBC, the ministers are finalizing the changes to the travel rules. However, you have yet to make an official statement on whether these restrictions will be lifted.