The move, which also applies to frontline social care workers, comes amid concerns that rising staff absences due to the need to self isolate is putting unsustainable pressure on health care services.
England bids farewell to social distancing rules on Freedom Day despite Covid cases continuing to soar. Critics now say the economy is under threat by a growing “pingdemic” whereby millions of people could be forced to quarantine by NHS Track and Trace.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the exemption for NHS staff would only apply in exceptional circumstances where the absence of staff could lead to a significant risk of harm.
Staff who are contacted by the app and told to quarantine because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will still need a negative PCR test before they can resume work and then take daily lateral flow tests.
Decisions on which staff qualify will be made on a case-by-case basis following a risk assessment by the management of the health or social care organisation concerned.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we learn to live with this virus, it’s important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country.
“These new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson has appealed to the public to enjoy their new freedoms with caution as most mandatory lockdown restrictions in England are finally lifted.
Social-distancing rules which, in one form or another, have governed people’s lives for over a year finally ended on Monday morning at one minute past midnight.
UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: “With the number of cases continuing to rise, it is imperative that we do everything we can to manage this virus and support our NHS and social care services under the strain of increased demand and sustained pressure.
“We have provided specific guidance to NHS and social care settings for circumstances where there is a significant risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence or a critical service cannot run.”