The self isolation period for people infected with Covid-19 has been cut from 10 days down to just seven.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said those in England who have the virus and are fully vaccinated can now take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period.
And if the result comes back negative, they can end their quarantine period.
The new rule applies in England only.
However, those who are unvaccinated and are identified as a contact with someone infected with coronavirus must still self-isolate until 10 days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus.
The rule change comes after analysis by the UKHSA suggested a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow tests had nearly the same protective effect as isolating for 10 days without testing.
Studies have also found that lateral flow tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron Covid-19 variant as they are for Delta.
It is hoped the new advice will help to reduce the disruption to people’s everyday lives.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This decision has been informed by the advice from our clinicians at the UKHSA who have looked at this very carefully and they are very comfortable that the protection that is provided by making this change … is very similar to 10 days of isolation without tests.
“Of course, anyone who leaves after day seven under this new procedure, they should continue to remain cautious but we are also very clear that the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our community, is to make sure you get boosted if you are eligible.
“I think this is a very sensible, balanced and proportionate take.”
Who needs to self isolate?
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the self-isolation period starts immediately from when Covid-19 symptoms started, or from when a positive lateral flow or PCR test was taken if you do not have any symptoms - whichever test was taken first.
From this point, your isolation then includes the next 10 full days.
This time period also applies to unvaccinated people in England.
From Wednesday (22 December), those in England who receive a negative lateral flow test result on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period, and are vaccinated, no longer have to quarantine for the full 10 days.
Instead, a lateral flow test must be taken 24 hours apart on day six and seven of the isolation period, and if this is negative, quarantine can end.
If you are unvaccinated and identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19, you must also self isolate for 10 days.
Those who are double jabbed and identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19 do not need to self isolate, but instead should take a daily lateral flow test.
This guidance applies to all cases of coronavirus, regardless of whether it is the Omicron variant or other strains.
The government has said all contacts will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace via text message, email or phone.
You can be a contact of someone with Covid-19 any time from two days before that person developed symptoms, or took a positive test, and up to 10 days after.
Contacts are 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 coronavirus symptoms, should self-isolate and take a PCR test to verify the result.
If the PCR result comes back positive, contacts must now self-isolate for seven days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms, and do not need to continue taking rapid tests during that 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.
The DHSC said anyone identified as a contact with a negative lateral flow test is “strongly advised” to limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces and with anyone who is more vulnerable.
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