The amount of time people with Covid in England have to spend in self-isolation has been cut.
The new rule comes into effect from Monday (17 January).
Here we take a look at what the new rules are, why the government has made the change and what has been said.
What are the new self-isolation rules?
The new rules mean that people with Covid will be able to leave isolation after completing a “minimum” of five full days.
They will then need to have negative tests on days five and six before being allowed to leave isolation.
This means that people could leave isolation at the start of day six - providing they test negative.
When the Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the changes, he told the Commons: “These two tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans, and I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we have built up in tests so we can restore the freedoms to this country while we’re keeping everyone safe.”
Why has the Government made changes to the self-isolation rules?
Mr Javid said that data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed “that around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five”.
He added that this data led to the decision to cut the self-isolation period in England.
The change in the self-isolation rules will also help address staff shortages in both the private and public sectors by allowing people to return to work earlier.
The NHS has been under pressure because of high Covid rates, with both hospital admissions and staff absences soaring at the start of January.
The Government has also been under pressure to cut the time so people working in the private sector can return to work sooner, which in turn will help the economy.
There have also been calls to bring the situation in England into line with the United States - where the isolation period has been cut to five days.
What has been the reaction to the self-isolation rule changes?
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is a pragmatic move which leaders will welcome if it can mean more health and care workers who are well enough can return to the frontline, providing it does not significantly add to the risk of the virus spreading.
“The number of people in hospital is still high, with admissions still rising in the North of England and, alongside that, the NHS faces a huge care backlog and significant vacancies.
“Leaders are grateful for the military support that has been made available to help deliver hospital services, as well as the three-month agreement with the independent sector, but we are certainly not out of the woods yet.”
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