PCR Testing

Posted in News, tagged with COVID-19, on January 22, 2021

In APA COVID Testing Recommendations | Coronavirus Update #81 we recommended testing (in addition to managing the production in accordance with the APA Covid Shooting Guidelines).

To remind you of the key takeaways from that document:

  • We recommend PCR testing for Heads of Department, crew who will be in close contact and actors,
  • The law requires you to use Government approved providers – (see info on labs in Coronavirus Update #86), 
  • Check availability of labs and turnaround times and availability of the people you would like to test before committing to testing, 
  • We don’t recommend Lateral Flow testing because it is unreliable.

We now have a further recommendation on PRC testing (and LAMP testing) on the advice of First Option, our health and safety experts: 

Anyone who has had a confirmed case of COVID (with a test result to say so) and has completed at least 10 days in isolation with the last 3 days being symptom free, should not be tested again for 90 days.


Because someone who has had COVID within the last 90 days and does not now have it is likely to still test positive.

The Science:  Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATS) such as PCR and LAMP for COVID-19 do not pick up the virus itself, they pick up traces of its genetic material. This means that traces of the virus can live in your body for 12 weeks and be picked up by a PCR test.

We have new guidance of when to return to work after a positive PCR test too: 

  • When can people return to work after illness or a positive test while asymptomatic, especially for close-contact work? 

Following WHO and Government advice is 10 days after symptom onset (or first positive test if asymptomatic).

  • When can they re-enter a screening programme? 

PHE and the CDC advise any positive result in the 90 days after the date of symptom onset requires careful interpretation by a medic. Unless productions have robust medical/scientific support in place to make that interpretation, we advise against retesting after a confirmed infection. 

As part of the APA Shooting Guidelines, all crew members should be informed of any intention to test at the point of engagement. This gives them a chance to disclose if they’ve had the infection in the past 90 days, however they must have had a confirmed case with a positive PCR test to be exempt from testing during that 90 day window.  Simply having had the symptoms and a self diagnosis isn’t enough to be excluded from the PCR testing.  

NB: The 90 day residual RNA issue is a feature of PCR and LAMP testing. It does not apply to LFTs. 

With thanks to our health and safety advisors, First Option for their evidence and advice on these issues.