Changes to COVID-19 testing will come into effect on Saturday April 1. The changes will be made to ensure testing continues to focus on those at highest risk.
The changes will also enable appropriate clinical treatment and support the management of outbreaks in high-risk settings including health and social care. These alterations come over a year after the nation began the transition to living with the virus.
Testing in England will now be further aligned with the management of other common respiratory infections thanks to the ongoing success of the vaccination programme, increased access to therapeutic treatments and high immunity amongst the population. Lateral flow devices (LFDs) have proven to be effective, rapid and safe. They are increasingly being used within the NHS instead of PCR testing.
These tests are regularly monitored against new variants and continue to be effective at detecting COVID-19. The changes will be set out in detail in guidance for those working in NHS, social care and high-risk settings.
Dr Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA said: "Fewer people now experience severe illness due to COVID-19 due to vaccinations, infection-related immunity and treatments for those who need them and the risk of hospitalisation has decreased overall. This means we are now able to further bring our testing programmes in line with management of other viral infections whilst still maintaining focus on those at highest risk to protect them from the virus.
"COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses haven’t gone away and simple actions, like washing your hands and staying at home and avoiding vulnerable people when unwell, can make a big difference. For those at highest risk of severe illness, the spring booster programme also provides an opportunity to keep immunity topped up."