UK Covid live: asymptomatic people who test positive on LFT no longer need follow-up PCR in England

Good morning. Gillian Keegan, the social care minister, has been giving interviews this morning and she has come close to confirming reports that the Covid testing rules in England are going to be changed. Under the new system, people without symptoms who test positive on a lateral flow test will no longer be asked to get a confirmatory PCR test. This will reduce pressure on the testing laboratories.

Asked about these reports, Keegan did not deny them, and hinted that a formal announcement is coming soon. She told BBC Breakfast:

As I say, I don’t have any official news on that but I know that the teams are looking at testing and testing regimes.

We’ve introduced so many lateral flow tests now and they are very accurate – they are really accurate if people are infectious, so I guess they are looking at the regime all the time in terms of what makes sense.

I don’t have any official news but the teams will announce it once they have come to their conclusions.

Asked if the announcement would come today, she said: “You may be able to expect some news – I don’t know when.”

Ministers are also reportedly planning to announce that people travelling to England will no longer need to take a pre-departure test.

Boris Johnson is chairing cabinet this morning, and both measures may be discussed there. At his press conference yesterday Johnson said he would asking cabinet to agree that the government should carry on with plan B instead of introducing further restrictions. That’s not much of an ask, because most of the cabinet, and the Conservative parliamentary party, are strongly opposed to tightening restrictions (which arguably would be too late now anyway).

But Johnson may face a tougher reception in the Commons, where the timing of today’s session means he is taking PMQs at 3pm, and where is is expected to deliver a Covid statement later.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

2pm: Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, makes a statement to the Scottish parliament on Covid.

2pm: The ONS publishes more results from its Covid infection survey.

2.30pm: The Commons starts sitting again after the Christmas recess, with Welsh questions.

3pm: Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

3.30pm: Johnson is expected to make a statement to MPs on Covid.

I will largely be focusing on UK Covid developments in this blog today, but for wider coronavirus coverage, do read our global live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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