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The rules around PCR and pre-departure tests are set to change after a major shake-up, it’s been confirmed.

In an announcement yesterday (Wednesday, January 5), the Government said that from 4am on Sunday (January 9), eligible, fully vaccinated travellers and over 5s will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR on or before day two of their arrival in England.

Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from tomorrow (Friday, January 7) and taken upon arrival by the end of day two.

Read more: Get the latest coronavirus news

It means that eligible, fully vaccinated passengers and under 18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test or self-isolate on arrival in England from 4am on Friday – but they must continue to take their post-arrival tests.

The reason for this is cited as being the fact Omicron is spreading widely across the community in the UK, so “it is now proportionate” to reduce testing measures at the borders.

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But anyone who receives a positive result on their lateral flow test must self-isolate immediately and order a NHS PCR test from gov.uk.

Positive PCR tests for arrivals will be sequenced to understand if and where variants are emerging around the world.

On the announcement, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we learn more about the Omicron variant it is right that we keep our testing and border measures under review to ensure they remain proportionate.

“The steps we’re taking will make travel easier for people while protecting the UK public from the virus.

“Omicron continues to be a serious threat and it is important that travellers continue to get tested. The most important thing anyone can do if they haven’t already is come forward for their vaccine.”

Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced further temporary changes to confirmatory PCR tests.

From next Tuesday (January 11) in England, people who receive a positive lateral flow result, which are tests used for people without Covid symptoms, will be required to self-isolate immediately.

Crucially, they won’t need to take a confirmatory PCR test.

Anyone who develops one of the three main Covid-19 symptoms – a new and continuous cough, high temperature or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste – should stay at home and self-isolate and take a PCR test.

They must still self-isolate if they get a positive test result, even if they have had a recent negative lateral flow test.

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Chief Executive of UKHSA, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “While cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs [lateral flow tests] can be used confidently to indicate Covid-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation.

It remains really important that anyone who experiences Covid-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately. They should also order a PCR test on GOV.UK or by phoning 119.

“I’m really grateful to the public and all of our critical workers who continue to test regularly and self-isolate when necessary, along with other practical and important public health behaviours, as this is the most effective way of stopping the spread of the virus and keeping our friends, families and communities safe.”

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