Covid testing guidance in Wales will change in an effort to free up PCR test capacity, the Welsh Government has announced.
The changes come into effect immediately amid growing demand for PCR tests as Wales records record levels of the virus and a doubling of recorded cases in just one week.
Around one in 20 people in Wales is estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to December 31, up from one in 40 in the week to December 23.
The first change will see unvaccinated people, who are contacts of positive cases and are self-isolating for 10 days, asked to take a lateral flow test on day two and day eight instead of a PCR test.
Secondly, any person showing no symptoms who has a positive lateral flow test will no longer be advised to have a follow-up PCR test to confirm the result, unless they are in a clinically vulnerable group.
With the prevalence of coronavirus above 1% in the UK, the risk of false positives from lateral flow devices has decreased, meaning there is less value in having a follow-up PCR test to confirm the result.
It is hoped the changes will reduce the demand for PCR tests by between 5% and 15%.
Announcing the changes, Wales’ health and social services minister Eluned Morgan said: “Wales Covid-19 testing capacity has increased significantly in NHS Wales laboratories and as part of a UK testing programme which is the biggest in Europe with almost 400 million PCR tests carried out since the start of the pandemic.
“As the Omicron wave sweeps across the country demand for PCR testing has reached unprecedented levels across the UK.
“This has resulted in the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) constraining bookings at times to avoid exceeding the UK programme laboratory capacity and compromising turnaround times for results.
“I have agreed some immediate changes to the PCR testing system that will help reduce pressure and help increase access for those who have symptoms and need to book a test.”
People who test positive on lateral flow devices are being urged to record their results in order to maintain accurate surveillance of the virus.
Ms Morgan continued: “Without a follow up PCR tests it is even more important for people to report the result of every lateral flow test they do and self-isolate as soon as they test positive.
“Without reporting, contact tracing will not be possible, nor will advice and support be provided by the system.
“We need everyone to continue to play their part in disrupting the transmission of Covid-19 by reporting their lateral flow test results on the gov.uk website or by calling 119.”
The Welsh Government has said it doesn’t currently believe there are issues with the supply of lateral flow tests but has said it recognises these changes will potentially increase demand.