Published: 11:38, 23 November 2021
| Updated: 15:46, 23 November 2021
People should take lateral flow tests before going to busy places this winter, according to new public health advice, as the government tries to ensure the UK avoids the fourth coronavirus wave currently sweeping across Europe.
In a change to its previous guidance, which requested the public take twice-weekly lateral flows, anyone about to go somewhere likely to be full of people is now being asked to take a test before setting off.
There were 44,917 people with a confirmed positive test result for coronavirus yesterday in the UK, taking the number of positive cases in the last seven days to 292,417.
While in Kent, cases are anticipated to hit a 10-month high as the county's infection rate soars above the country's national average.
In Western Europe, cases are rising rapidly with countries including Austria, Germany and the Netherlands returning to full or partial lockdowns to try and bring down escalating case numbers.
Until now public health advice in the UK has been for people without coronavirus symptoms to take rapid lateral flow tests twice a week, or when visiting someone medically vulnerable, to detect asymptomatic cases where people can unintentionally spread the virus.
It is estimated that one in three people who have coronavirus show no symptoms.
But with Christmas festivities picking up the pace, and with more people likely to mix whilst out shopping or socialising, ministers and scientists have altered that previous advice.
Government guidance now requests that anyone who thinks they will enter somewhere that is 'high risk' considers taking a rapid lateral flow test before joining a crowded space.
The advice now reads: "You are at higher risk of catching or passing on Covid-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and where there is limited fresh air.
"You may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day.
"This includes spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces, or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get Covid-19."
Rapid lateral flow tests are available free of charge and can be collected from pharmacies or are available to order online.
The swab can be done in seconds from home and results on the home test kits are available within 30 minutes.
Despite a steady relaxation in Covid rules since the summer, ministers and scientists believe the UK is better placed than many places in Europe to avoid another wave as a result of the vaccine programme and the current roll out of booster jabs.
On Monday, the offer of a third vaccine was extended to those aged over 40, and who are now six months passed their second jab, while teenagers aged 16 and 17 have also been offered the opportunity to get a second vaccination in a further development to the programme.
The double jabbed, along with children under the age of 18, no longer have to isolate if someone is their household has tested positive for coronavirus, providing that they've had a negative PCR test result back.
To read the government guidance in full click here.