Daily lateral flow tests to replace quarantines for COVID contact cases

Instead of 10 days quarantining, government-backed research will trial giving people daily lateral flow tests for seven days!

Lateral flow tests
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Lateral flow tests

With this new approach of daily lateral flow tests, the UK people might get relieved of self-isolation rules when they come in contact with a COVID patient. The trial in England will witness daily lateral tests to approximately 40,000 thousand people. This decision was taken after the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, stated that the country was 'in a good position' to end COVID-19 restrictions on 21 June.

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Although, there would still be a need to keep track of variants that exist and some safeguards would remain still beyond the June end.

What are daily lateral flow tests?

According to NHS test and trace data, more than 6.7 million close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the last year. On the other hand, in another study conducted by them, it was found that very few people actually followed the self-isolation rules in full. Thus, understanding that complete isolation cannot be possible for everyone, Public Health England (PHE) and NHS test and trace will launch this trial from 9 May.

Under this trial, people of COVID contacts would have to take daily lateral tests every morning for seven days. People who test negative every day will be exempted from legal quarantine requirements. They can lead regular lives so long as they do not show any COVID symptoms. Prof. Isabel Oliver, Public Health England, national infection service director, claims that this would be essential insights into how 'the approach to testing might evolve.'

Lateral flow tests are less sensitive and give results in about 30 minutes compared to PCR test, which is processed in a laboratory and returned in 24 hours. While they may not be as accurate as PCR tests, their use by schools to safely reopen has proved they can be effective.

The implementation

Since the vaccination program has changed the equation and reduced the risk from COVID, the study will recruit a large number of people who will be invited as a part of the contact tracing process. In addition to taking a PCR test if any daily lateral flow test comes positive, the participants would also have to take a PCR test at the start and end of the trial period.

This trial is considered a very positive step since the UK has not been doing good at self-isolation. Matt Hancock, health secretary believes:

This new pilot could help shift the dial in our favour by offering a viable alternative to self-isolation for people who are contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, and one that would allow people to carry on going to work and living their lives.
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