What are the rules on Covid self-isolation and how long is the period?

·3-min read
What are the rules on Covid self-isolation and how long is the period?

The Covid self-isolation period has been cut to five days, following an announcement by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

The announcement, on January 13, means people can leave isolation at the start of day six, subject to two negative lateral flow tests taken a day apart, with the first of these tests being no sooner than day five. The measures come into effect on January 17.

It comes after changes which means Britons who are asymptomatic who return a positive lateral flow test will no longer need to get a confirmatory PCR test.

Boris Johnson announced on January 19 that the legal requirement to self-isolate while with Covid will will be allowed to lapse when regulations expire on March 24.

He has said that date could brought forward and replaced with advice and guidance “urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others."

What are the new rules?

Under the current rules, people without Covid symptoms who return a positive lateral flow test will no longer need a confirmatory PCR test.

The measures came into effect on January 11.

Those who return a positive result will still need to isolate immediately for up to ten days - reduced to five if they return negative results on day 5 and 6 of their period of isolation.

The UKHSA say that while infection levels are high, the “vast majority of people with positive LFD results can be confident that they have Covid-19”.

Those who do experience symptoms must still take a PCR test.

What were the old self-isolation rules?

Under previous rules, Britons were ordered to take a lateral flow test whenever they had one of the three typical Covid symptoms: a high temperature, a continuous cough or a loss of taste or smell.

This test was then confirmed by a PCR test, with the period of self-isolation beginning on the day your test was taken if it returned a positive result.

For those who had symptoms, the period of self-isolation lasts 10 days from when those symptoms began.

Anyone who is not symptomatic — which is about a third of all Covid patients — must still report the result of their lateral flow test on the government website.

Why have the changes been brought in?

A surge in Covid infections driven by the Omicron variant has sparked widespread staffing shortages in the NHS, with many employees forced to isolate at home.

While many NHS trusts in London are continuing to run all services, there is disruption in others of routine care, with some appointments being postponed.

UKHSA chief executive Dame Jenny Harries said: “While cases of Covid continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate Covid-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation.

“It remains really important that anyone who experiences Covid-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately. They should also order a PCR test on gov.uk, or by phoning 119.”

The testing system is also under significant strain with people still struggling to get lateral flow tests.

It is hoped that the change would potentially reduce the time people spend in isolation allowing them to return to the workplace more quickly.

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