People who test positive for Covid-19 in England can now end their self-isolation after five full days.
The move to reduce the quarantine period from seven to five days has been hailed as restoring “extra freedoms” and comes amid suggestions that all Plan B restrictions will be lifted at the end of this month.
What are the new self-isolation rules?
From Monday (17 January), anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in England can now leave self-isolation after five full days, providing they produce a negative lateral flow test on days five and six.
The first test must be taken no earlier than day five, with the second to be taken the following day.
If a test comes back positive on day five, then a negative test is required on day six and day seven to release from isolation.
If a person still tests positive on day six, then a negative test is required on days seven and eight, and so on until the end of day 10.
It is essential that two negative rapid lateral flow tests are taken on consecutive days and reported if leaving quarantine earlier than the full 10 day period.
Those who leave self-isolation on or after day six are advised to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, work from home if they can, and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19.
The change comes after the government said research showed between 20% and 30% of people are still infectious by day six, but the percentage of those released while infectious falls to around 7% if people have two consecutive negative tests and then leave isolation from day six.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Following a robust review of the evidence, we have reduced the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.
“This is a balanced and proportionate approach to restore extra freedoms and reduce the pressure on essential public services over the winter.
“It is crucial people only stop self-isolating after two negative tests to ensure you are not infectious.”
The Department of Health said the default self-isolation period still remains 10 full days, and people can only end it early if they receive two negative results on consecutive days – the earliest being days five and six.
Plan B rules to be reviewed
Boris Johnson will review the Plan B Covid rules in England, which include mandatory mask-wearing, working from home and Covid passes, on 26 January, and it is expected that the measures will be lifted.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden indicated the situation is looking encouraging for a rolling back of restrictions, and said there has been “some very promising data” on infections and hospital admissions from the Omicron variant, which “gives us pause for hope and optimism”.
Mr Dowden told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “It has always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.
“I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens this puts hospitality, wider business, schools and so on under, and I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can.
“The signs are encouraging but, clearly, we will wait to see the data ahead of that final decision.”
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