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What Are the Latest Updates to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing?

on Friday, 12 February 2021.

On 28 January 2021, Public Health England (PHE) updated its 'Stay at Home' guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection.

PHE has updated its guidance to provide clarity on the differences between Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and Lateral Flow Device (LFD) antigen tests. The guidance has also been updated to reflect the legal duty for the public to isolate following a positive LFD test.

PCR and LFD Tests

PCR tests are for individuals with coronavirus symptoms and are the most reliable form of test. LFD antigen tests are appropriate for use of regular testing of staff in care homes, the NHS and schools. LFD antigen tests can also be used for asymptomatic community testing programmes. LFD antigen tests are simple and quick, but not as accurate as PCR tests.

What Must Happen Following a Positive PCR or LFD Antigen Test?

The guidance confirms that anyone who tests positive following a PCR test or a LFD antigen test should follow the 'Stay at Home' guidance and self-isolate along with their households for a full 10 days from the date of the positive result.

Individuals who have had a positive PCR test result should not be tested again for 90 days from the test date unless they develop new symptoms of coronavirus. This is because PCR tests may remain positive for some time after a person has been infected with coronavirus.

The guidance confirms that if an individual does have a LFD antigen test within 90 days of a positive PCR test (for example, as part of a workplace testing programme) and that new LFD antigen test is positive, they and their household must self-isolate again.

The guidance details that there are special arrangements for people who work in care homes, the NHS or in primary schools as they have regular LFD antigen tests (as part of a workplace asymptomatic testing programme).

If an individual in one of these settings has a positive LFD antigen test result, that individual (and their household) must both self-isolate and arrange to take a PCR test. If the subsequent PCR test result is positive, the individual and their household must complete the full self-isolation period. However, if the PCR test result is negative and they have no symptoms of coronavirus, the individual and household can stop self-isolating.

Coronavirus Legal Advice

What is Best Practice for Employers?

Employers should be mindful of these changes and should ensure they are continuously complying with government guidance. If employers are introducing LFD antigen testing as part of workplace testing programmes, it would be sensible to consult with staff over the reasons why testing is considered necessary and explore and address any concerns that staff may have in relation to this.

Procedures should be implemented to deal with positive test results, whilst also keeping the identity and test result of the individual protected. Employers should also ensure the rules in relation to self-isolating are followed as both employers and employees could face fines and negative publicity if they do not comply with the government guidelines.

For more information on compliance with the current government guidelines, please contact Nick Murrell in the Employment Law team on 07500 009 162 or complete the form below.

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