Downing Street’s official Covid guidance on self-testing changed on Tuesday as it anticipates people will be socialising in larger groups and indoors ahead of the festive season.
What has changed?
The government used to recommend each person takes a lateral flow test twice a week.
Now, individuals in England – and Scotland – are advised to take regular lateral flow tests before visiting friends, going to crowded venues, Christmas parties or even shopping.
Individuals are also advised to get tested before visiting someone at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid.
Official guidance in England suggests people should take a lateral flow test “if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day”.
Why has it changed?
This change in England and Scotland does not specifically mention Christmas, and instead focuses on the fact that many people will be in shops or planning to see friends and family in the upcoming festive season.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also noted that the “pandemic is not yet behind us”, as seen in the wave of infections taking hold in Europe.
In fact, all of the devolved governments appear to have responded to this increase in infections creeping across the continent.
Northern Ireland executive has just reinforced its working from home advice, suggested people should reduce their social interactions and advised they should continue to wear face coverings indoors.
Wales will be deciding whether to add hospitality venues to its Covid pass scheme next month, too.
However, Wales’ official advice still reads: “If you are over the age of 11 you are encouraged to take tests twice a week (every 3 or 4 days) if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms.”
Northern Ireland also suggests testing yourself just twice a week for Covid at the moment.
What is a lateral flow test?
This is a rapid test you can conduct yourself which will tell if you are positive for Covid – even if you have no symptoms – in minutes.
You can order two packs of seven tests from a pharmacy for free or through the Gov.uk website.
Once you carry out the test, record the result on the NHS website within 24 hours of getting it.
Carrying out regular lateral flow tests helps to control the virus as an individual may not be aware they are infected beforehand.
This is particularly pressing at the moment as Covid cases remain relatively high across all four UK nations.