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Testing policies under lens as Omicron spreads

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Britain and Israel are overhauling their Covid testing policies as governments seek to reduce the burden on laboratories and struggle with tight supplies of kits amid soaring infection rates fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Demand for testing kits has squeezed supply. Last week, queues formed outside pharmacies in Spain’s capital Madrid in what has become a common scene since Omicron began driving up cases. It is opting for increased testing and no restrictions on socialising.
A surge in demand for tests has led to issues in Britain. The UK health security agency (UKHSA) said that 100,000 more PCR booking slots per day had been made available since mid-December and that capacity had been doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day. UK PM Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that compulsory Covid tests required by vaccinated overseas travellers no earlier than 48 hours before arriving in England will be scrapped from Friday morning. Also, people in England who test Covid positive on rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the UKHSA said on Wednesday. PCR tests are processed in a lab and can be used to determine which variant a person has, while a LFD can be used at home and gives an indication of infectivity within half an hour. More than one in 20 people in Britain had Covid in the last week of 2021, the highest infection rate recorded, official data showed on Wednesday. An estimated 3.7 million people in the UK had the virus, up from 2.3 million the previous week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Israel too changed its testing policy as part of efforts to save resources. PCR tests will be earmarked for people aged 60 and over or with weak immune systems, while those at lower risk will be checked with rapid antigen tests.
The US CDC on Tuesday backed its week-old guidance for people seeking to end their Covid isolation at five days, adding they could take a rapid antigen test if they want to and can access one, but it is not a requirement. It had been pressured by experts to institute a test requirement after it cut in half its guidance for people to isolate.
Ireland will drop its requirement for arrivals to have negative test and return to seeking vaccination proof. Reuters





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