Testing for COVID-19
The Public Health Agency has put in place new PCR testing protocols to help protect the testing system in Northern Ireland and ensure availability of testing for those who need it.
People who test positive on lateral flow test will no longer need a PCR test to confirm that result. If your lateral flow is positive, you should assume you have COVID-19 and that you are infectious. You should therefore self-isolate immediately for the required period.
You do not need to take a confirmatory PCR test.
It is extremely important that you report your positive lateral flow test. This will trigger contact tracing processes to alert people you have been in close contact with and to provide them with advice regarding their potential to become infected and spread the virus.
Lateral flow results should be reported online at https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result
Fully-vaccinated* close contacts of a positive case will no longer be required to take a PCR test. They are instead are advised to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test as soon as possible and continue to take daily lateral flow tests while isolating (see here).
Unvaccinated people will have to continue to self-isolate for 10 days as before.
It is no longer necessary for children under five years of age to take a PCR test – even if they have symptoms like a cough or temperature – unless advised to do so by their doctor.
*Fully-vaccinated people are those who have had at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, with the second dose at least 14 days ago.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature); OR
a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual); OR
a loss of or change in sense of smell or taste.
If your child has any of these symptoms it is very important that they do NOT attend school and should also self-isolate at home. You should arrange for them to get tested as soon as possible. They should continue to isolate until the result of the test is available.
What do I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they should not attend school but self-isolate.
Ending isolation early
You may be able to end your self-isolation period before the end of the 10 full days provided you have two negative lateral flow tests (LFT) taken 24 hours apart.
You can take the first LFT from day six of your isolation period. The second should be taken the following day at least 24 hours later.
If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result.
The earliest you can end isolation is on day seven (providing the LFTs on day six and seven are both negative).
Report your LFD test results(external link opens in a new window / tab) after taking each test.
If either your day six or seven test are positive you can test again the following day.
You should only end your self-isolation after you have had two consecutive
negative LFD tests which should be taken at least 24 hours apart.
You should stop testing after you have had two consecutive negative test results.
You can end self-isolation as long as you do not still have a high temperature.
If you still have a high temperature, you need to continue to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours.
You do not need to continue self-isolating for more than seven days if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell/ taste, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.
This guidance also applies to children and young people who usually attend an education or childcare setting.
Those who leave self-isolation on or after day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19. The Public Health Agency Contact Tracing Service (PHA CTS) will be in touch to determine who your child’s close contacts are, and will ask for contact details for them so they can be advised appropriately.
Cases will initially receive a text to inform them of the PCR result – it takes a number of hours for these positive results to be transferred to the CTS. The text will be followed by a telephone call by the CTS, this can happen in the 48 hours after you have received the text to inform you of your positive PCR result. Parents can help by familiarising themselves with the process; if their child tests positive for COVID-19 – expect to be contacted by the CTC, recognise our number (028 9536 8888) by adding it to your phone’s contacts, and please answer when we do call.
Parents and guardians will be primarily responsible for informing the school principal of their child’s positive result
What if my child tests negative for COVID-19?
If your child tests negative for COVID-19 they can return to school as normal, provided they feel well enough to do so.
What do I do if my child’s friend tests positive?
If you do not hear from the PHA CTS, then there is no requirement for you or your child to self-isolate. The PHA CTS will identify all close contacts, and follow them up directly. If your child has been identified as a close contact, then the PHA CTS will make contact with you or your child and provide advice. However, if your child develops symptoms, then they must self-isolate and not attend school, until they have had a negative test.