Daily lateral flow testing for COVID-19 contacts launches in the UK this week

Dec 13, 2021

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This story has been updated with new information.

New restrictions on social distancing have begun on Monday, including government advice to work from home if possible for the foreseeable future.

In other changes this week, from 14 December, anyone identified as coming into close contact of a positive case should take a free NHS lateral flow test each day for seven days, rather than self-isolating. Positive cases must still isolate and unvaccinated adults must self-isolate for 10 days.

Additionally, face masks and COVID passes will now be required to enter certain mass venues in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on 8 December as part of the country’s “Plan B” response to the omicron variant. The variant is now spreading quickly through the country, with the first death recorded. It is expected to be the dominant variant in the U.K. within days.

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From 15 December NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory to access nightclubs and other venues with large crowds, including indoor venues with 500 or more people, outdoor spaces with 4,000-plus individuals and any venue with attendance exceeding 10,000 people, to allow these spaces to remain open without reducing capacity. The news will add another layer of protocol for any travellers visiting the U.K. through the Christmas period, as well as U.K. residents.

Although those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are able to obtain the Covid Pass initially, it’s likely that the validity of the pass will hinge on the addition of subsequent COVID-19 boosters in the near future. All adults will now be offered a booster jab by the end of December, rather than the end of January as originally planned.

“The NHS Covid Pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out,” the Prime Minister said.

Additionally, face masks are to be worn at most public indoor spaces, including venues, theatres and cinemas from 10 December.

Related: 48 hours or 2 days? The UK Gov’s confusing and conflicting pre-departure testing explained

Work from home measures have also been reintroduced to facilitate remote work wherever possible moving forward. Businesses will have until 13 December to make arrangements. The new rules create the unusual situation where the public can attend Christmas parties with their colleagues, provided they don’t go into a workplace with them.

“Employers should use the rest of this week to discuss working arrangements with their employees,” he said in a press conference on 8 December. “But from Monday [13 December] you should work from home if you can. Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.”

Additional reporting by Ben Smithson.

Featured photo by Adrian Dennis-WPA Pool/Getty Images.

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