From today, the general public has been told to assume they have Covid-19 and that they are infectious if antigen test is positive.
According to the Department of Health, those testing positive will no longer need to take a confirmatory PCR test and should instead self-isolate immediately for the required period.
A spokesperson said: “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.
“If you have a condition that puts you at highest risk from Covid, reporting your lateral flow test will alert your clinical team to your positive result.
“Lateral flow results should be reported online at https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result.
“If you cannot use the online service, you should call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines) to report the result of your lateral flow test.”
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the removal of the requirement for a confirmatory PCR testing is a temporary measure in response to the very high prevalence of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland at present.
When prevalence of Covid is high, a positive antigen test is a reliable indicator of current Covid-19 infection, the paper states.
With infections at the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic and demand for tests very high, the department said it makes sense to use LFD and PCR tests where they have the most impact in reducing the spread of Covid-19 and protecting the most vulnerable.
“If you have a positive Covid-19 test, the earliest you can end your period of self-isolation is on day seven - providing your lateral flow tests on day six and seven are both negative and you do not have a high temperature.
"Your day six and day seven lateral flow tests should be at least 24 hours apart. If either is positive, you should continue to isolate until you get two negative lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart, or after you have completed 10 full days of isolation – whichever is earlier,” a spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there will be no change this week to rules for vaccinated close contacts.
Mr Martin warned that making a change “too quickly” risked “accelerating even further the exponential growth of the virus”.
The Taoiseach was speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting where ministers discussed the “rampant” spread of Covid-19.
No further restrictions have yet been recommended by public health officials while Nphet is due to meet tomorrow.
Mr Martin said the five-day isolation advice was in line with other countries and added: “First and foremost it’s public health advice and we’re not out of step internationally on this.”
He added that the country was dealing with “a very rapid-spreading, highly transmissible variant” that needed to be managed.
While the matter is to be discussed by Nphet when it meets tomorrow, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has already said he would favour people who have received a booster being exempted from the self-isolation rules.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said today that it “makes sense” to have different self-isolation rules depending on someone’s vaccination status.
While certain sectors can apply for a derogation allowing them to be exempted from self-isolation rules, Education Minister Norma Foley said today she said she would not be seeking a similar derogation for teachers.
The Taoiseach also defended the government’s decision to open schools as planned tomorrow, saying that they were putting the child’s needs first.
Minister Foley said yesterday there was no rationale to delay tomorrow’s return of schools but unions have continued to express concern about the availability of teachers due to Covid-related absences.
Speaking to reporters today, Martin said that “children do best when at school” and that this was the motivation behind the decision to proceed with the reopening of education.