Self isolation rules have changed in England this week to reduce the amount of time those who are vaccinated have to stay in quarantine.
As of 22 December, people who test negative with a lateral flow test on day six and day seven of their isolation period, after taking tests 24 hours apart, now only have to isolate for seven days instead of 10.
This guidance only applies to people who test positive for Covid-19 in England. Those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must continue to isolate for 10 full days.
The change comes following new analysis from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) that suggests a slightly shorter isolating period alongside two negative lateral flow tests has almost the same protective effect as a 10 day quarantine without testing.
The UKHSA said that the new approach reflects latest evidence on how long cases transmit the virus for, and supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus.
Studies also demonstrate that lateral flow tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant as they are for the Delta strain.
But what are the isolation rules if you live with someone who tests positive for Covid-19? Here’s what you need to know about the rules across the UK.
If you live with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you are legally required to self isolate - even if you do not have any symptoms - unless any of the following criteria applies:
- you are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means you have had two doses of an approved vaccine, such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, or one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.
- you are younger than 18 years and six months
- you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial
- you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
If you meet any of these four conditions you are not legally required to self-isolate.
However, the UK government recommends that people instead take a lateral flow test daily for a period of seven days.
If you are a contact of someone with Covid-19, you should be contacted by NHS Test and Trace via phone, email or text, or via a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app.
Contacts will be advised to get a box of seven lateral flow tests free of charge from NHS Test and Trace either through pharmacies, schools or home delivery by ordering online.
Anyone whose rapid test comes back positive, or who develops symptoms, should self-isolate and take a PCR test to verify the result.
If the PCR result comes back positive, contacts must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms. People do not need to continue taking rapid tests during that 10-day isolation period.
If the PCR result comes back negative, contacts can leave self-isolation but should continue to take rapid tests for the remainder of the seven days.
Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and is identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive are required to self isolate for 10 days.
The isolation period includes the day the first person in your household had symptoms, or from the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms, and the next 10 full days.
If you are identified as a household contact of a positive Covid-19 case, you are advised to self isolate for 10 days, irrespective of vaccination status, PCR test result and age.
If you think you have symptoms you should self isolate immediately and take a PCR test.
If you do not have symptoms, you should still take a lateral flow test before you meet with other households, travel to see people, or visit busy places.
If you are a fully vaccinated adult or aged between five and 17 you do not need to self isolate if you are identified as a close contact.
However the Welsh government advises you do the following:
- take a lateral flow test every day for seven days, or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19 if this is earlier
- take this daily test before you leave the house for the first time that day
- upload all test results on GOV.UK even if it is negative or void
If you are 18 and over and not fully vaccinated, you must self isolate from the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19 and for the next 10 days.
You should also take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8. Even if these tests are negative, you should complete the full isolation period.
If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, self-isolation and testing requirements depend on your vaccination status, age and where you work.
School aged children and young people, those who are fully vaccinated, and those who have taken part in an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial, should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test as soon as possible.
If the PCR test is negative, isolation can stop but you should take a daily lateral flow test every day after the negative PCR result until the tenth day after your last date of contact with the positive case.
Children under the age of five should also take a PCR test as soon as possible and are asked to self-isolate immediately. However, if it is not possible to carry out a PCR, isolation can stop as long as they do not have symptoms and daily lateral flow tests are not required.
If you are aged 18 and over and either unvaccinated, have had one dose only, or if it is less than 14 days since your second dose, you should:
- self-isolate immediately and for 10 days following last contact with the positive person
- book a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10-day period following last contact with the positive person
The 10 day isolation period must be completed even if these test results are negative.
Health and care workers who are fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact may not be able to attend the workplace during the 10 day period following last contact.
It is advised that workers discuss with their manager if they can attend the workplace.
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