Swindon’s health boss has acknowledged that the new system of self-reporting lateral flow test results could be abused by some.

Director of public health for Swindon Borough Council Steve Maddern added he would not back an end to free LFTs at this time in the pandemic.

This week the health secretary announced that from Monday the isolation period will be cut down from seven days to five full days. This means that if people with coronavirus receive two negative lateral flow tests at the start of day six, they no longer need to self-isolate.

Earlier the Government said people with a positive LFT result must self-isolate immediately and register their results independently. They do not need to take a confirmatory PCR test.

Mr Maddern praised the move, despite the reliance on the the public people conscientious. “The accuracy of the LFT is good, so I think this is a positive step at this moment in time,” he said. “If your LFT test is positive, your PCR is very likely to come back positive.

“Any self-reporting system is open to abuse, but I remain hopeful that the residents of Swindon will do the right thing. Those that choose to abuse the system, I would hope are the minority.

“It does expect a degree of civic honesty within our population, but there will always be people who bend the rules.

“The removal of the requirement to take confirmation PCRs as a result of a positive LFT is only a temporary arrangement while case rates are at the level that they are.”

On the issue of the drop to five full days of isolation after a positive test, he added: “The science defines the change to the self-isolation policy.”

The official guidance is still ‘lateral flow before you go’ into higher risk settings or testing twice a week.

While education secretary Nadhim Zahawi dismissed the idea that free mass LFTs would be axed soon, housing secretary Michael Gove did not give a clear answer when questioned by Sky News.

Mr Maddern suggested it would not be helpful to get rid of them at this stage. “I believe these are just rumours that the Government has rejected.

“I would not currently support the end of free community testing at this time as LFTs are essentially the main tool of the national testing strategy.

“As more and more data is gathered, the science evolves and this influences health protection policy and guidelines.

“We do need to be able to live and work alongside Covid-19 but in a measured way that allows people to live the lives they want to, while also protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”