Regular asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in all remaining settings in England will be paused from 31 August, as COVID-19 cases continue to fall. Symptomatic testing will, however, remain as it is deemed important for health and social care staff and others in these settings to be given clarity about their condition. Immunocompromised patients in hospitals and people being admitted into care homes and hospices will also continue to be tested
The success of the vaccination programme means COVID-19 cases have now fallen to 40,027 and the risk of transmission is vastly reduced. Deaths have fallen to 744 and hospitalisations to 6,005 in the last 7 days, meaning wider asymptomatic testing can now soon end as planned in most instances.
Settings where asymptomatic testing of staff and patients or residents will be paused include: the NHS (including independent healthcare providers treating NHS patients); adult social care and hospice services (apart from new admissions); parts of the prison estate and some places of detention; and certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.
Year-round symptomatic testing will continue to be provided in some settings, including: NHS patients who require testing as part of established clinical pathways or those eligible for COVID-19 treatments; NHS staff and staff in NHS-funded independent healthcare provision; staff in adult social care services and hospices and residents of care homes, extra care and supported living settings and hospices.
The government continues to utilise both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid testing via lateral flow device (LFD) tests. The majority of testing is now conducted by LFD tests. PCR testing is only advised in certain circumstances, typically in the NHS where there is direct access to a laboratory that can provide rapid results.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Thanks to the success of our world-leading vaccination roll-out, we are able to continue living with COVID and, from 31 August, we will pause routine asymptomatic testing in most high-risk settings.
“This reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed. Those being admitted into care homes will continue to be tested”.
Full guidance for COVID-19 testing during periods of low prevalence can be accessed here.