The Welsh Government confirmed the change after it was announced in England that people who have had a positive lateral flow test result will no longer need a confirmatory PCR test as long as they are asymptomatic.
A statement said that since Christmas Day daily bookings at tests sites across Wales have reached up to 28,000 – a record high.
Wales health minister Eluned Morgan said: “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.”
The changes are:
- People who are unvaccinated contacts of positive cases and are self-isolating for 10 days should now take a lateral flow test on day two and day eight instead of a PCR test. The Welsh Government said: “This will help to increase PCR testing capacity. This change will come into effect immediately.”
- The Welsh Government has agreed that if a person showing no symptoms has a positive lateral flow test they will no longer be advised to have a follow-up PCR test to confirm the result unless they are in a clinically vulnerable group, which may need early access to treatment or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme.
The second change will come into effect from January 6 and the Welsh Government estimates it will reduce the demand for PCR tests by between 5% and 15%.
Baroness Morgan said: “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.”
She added: “We recognise these changes will potentially increase demand for lateral flow tests. There are no current issues with supplies but we are aware of issues with distribution for people to access tests at some collection points including pharmacies. UKHSA manage the logistics and deliveries across the UK and we are working closely with them to improve the situation.
“More than four million tests were distributed to workplaces, people’s homes, and collection points in Wales last week.”
The announcement comes as latest figures from Public Health Wales soared to above 2,000 cases per 100,000 population – by far the most recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Latest figures from Public Health Wales published on Wednesday show 21,279 new positive cases over the 24-hour period up to 9am on January 3 to bring the total in Wales since the pandemic began to 689,750.
A further 10 people have also died within 28 days of testing positive meaning 6,599 patients have now lost their lives with the virus to date.
The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales, based on the seven days up to December 31, has risen from 1,415 cases per 100,000 population on Sunday to 2,133.4 on Wednesday – the highest figure at any stage of the pandemic