The self-isolation period for people who have tested positive for coronavirus has been cut to a week in most cases.
The change has been outlined in new guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Here is an explanation of what it means.
– What has changed?
From Wednesday, people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.
This applies to members of the general public who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, the UKHSA said.
The Government intends to amend the current coronavirus regulations to reflect the new guidance when Parliament returns, it said.
Until then, people who follow the new guidance will be regarded as having a “reasonable excuse” not to complete the full self-isolation period.
Separate guidance applies to people in health and care settings.
— UK Health Security Agency (@UKHSA) December 22, 2021
– Why has it been introduced?
The UKHSA says its analysis shows isolating for seven days with two negative lateral flow tests “has nearly the same protective effect” as isolating for 10 days without testing.
It says it reflects the latest evidence on how long people transmit the virus, and will help support essential public services and supply chains as they come under pressure this winter.
Dr Jenny Harries says the speed at which Omicron is spreading may pose a risk to the running of critical services, and that the new guidance will help “break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods”.
– So what does it mean if I am self-isolating with coronavirus?
People who have had coronavirus confirmed by a PCR test and are self-isolating should take a lateral flow test no earlier than day six, followed by a second lateral flow test 24 hours later.
If both are negative, and the person does not have a high temperature, they will be able to leave their isolation after the second test result.
People who end their isolation before the 10 full days are still strongly advised to limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in higher-risk situations, work from home if they can, and limit contact with anyone at higher risk of severe illness if infected with coronavirus.
– I haven’t had both vaccines – can I end my isolation after seven days?
The UKHSA has said the policy applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people with coronavirus, who receive negative lateral flow results on days six and seven.
However, the rules have not changed for people who are not double jabbed who are contacts of coronavirus cases.
In this scenario, they must self-isolate for the full 10 days after their date of exposure to the virus.
– How have people responded?
With some confusion. People are still being told that they can only order lateral flow tests via the Government’s website if they have not been told to self-isolate or if they do not have symptoms.
The UKHSA said the information on the web page for ordering the tests will be updated shortly.
– What about people in health and social care settings with coronavirus?
The new isolation rules apply to care home residents, and hospital patients who have not been admitted with coronavirus, the UKHSA said.
It said hospital patients admitted with coronavirus must isolate for 14 days.
Health and care staff can end their isolation if they have received negative lateral flow test results on both days six and seven, and return to work from day eight as long as they do not have symptoms and continue receiving negative results between days eight and 10.