UK’s daily Covid-19 testing scheme to avoid self-isolation: All you need to know

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had recently announced that he will be part of the daily testing study, however, agreed to self-isolate after backlash.

The United Kingdom is conducting a pilot study that requires those in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus to undergo daily testing at their workplaces, instead of self-isolating.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak had recently announced that they will be part of the study, after Health minister Sajid Javid on Saturday said he had tested positive for Covid-19. “They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street,” a government statement had said. “They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.”

However, after intense backlash, the prime minister decided to ‘stick to rules’ and went into self-isolation until July 26.

A report by The Guardian says that the testing scheme involves 20 public bodies, such as government departments, Transport for London, Network Rail and Border Force, that have set up testing sites, which rely on lateral flow tests, used for those without symptoms, and only require individuals to isolate when not at work.

On Monday, the UK government allowed fully vaccinated frontline health care and social care workers in England to attend work in “exceptional circumstances”. The self-isolation measures will be replaced by testing mitigations, a press release stated.

“This measure is being introduced to alleviate pressure on NHS and social care services and will be contingent on staff members only working after having a negative PCR test and also taking daily negative lateral flow tests for a minimum of seven days, and up to 10 days or completion of the identified self-isolation period,” it said.

What is a lateral flow device test?

UK’s National Health Services website states that the rapid lateral flow tests are done for those without any Covid-19 symptoms. It recommends daily testing for those vaccinated, as they still have a chance of getting infected. “Research shows rapid tests are 99.9 per cent accurate. This means the chance of getting a false-positive result (where the result shows as positive but is actually negative) is extremely low,” the website states.

The government also outlined that in case an individual tests positive in the LFD test, they should self-isolate and arrange a PCR test as soon as possible.

A NHS doctor also took to Twitter earlier this week to caution against Javid’s advice to take a LFD if they felt ‘unwell’ or had come in contact with someone who had tested positive. Rachel Clarke asserted that “a negative lateral flow test does not rule out Covid.”

Daily testing replaces isolation at Olympics

Japan, too, issued guidelines for daily testing for athletes at the upcoming Olympics games, exempting athletes from isolation, unless they test positive. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) playbook for the 2020 Olympics says that athletes and accompanying team members “will be tested daily to minimise the risk of undetected positive cases that could transmit the virus,” apart from testing before and on arrival in Japan.

The athletes must submit their saliva samples everyday which will undergo a quantitative saliva antigen test in a lab. “If the results of the first test are unclear or positive, a saliva PCR test will be conducted from the same sample of saliva,” the playbook states.

If the athlete has come in contact with someone who tested positive, the guidelines state they would be allowed to compete if they undergo a negative daily nasopharyngeal PCR test result, for a period to be decided by the authorities. On a case to case basis, they might be required to shift to a private room and have meals separately among other restrictions.

Isolation would be required if the athlete experiences symptoms of Covid-19 at a designated area till PCR test results are received. In case the athlete tests positive, “in principle,” they “will be required to stay at an isolation facility.”

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