Self-isolation reduced to seven days - if you provide two negative tests
- Credit: Archant
The isolation period for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has been reduced from 10 days to seven – if you can provide two negative lateral flow tests.
Those infected with the virus can take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period and if both test negative the person can stop quarantining, according to The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
But the UKHSA said people who leave self-isolation on day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and to continue working from home.
This comes after analysis by the UKHSA suggested that a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without testing.
Studies have also demonstrated that lateral flow device (LFD) tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant as they are for Delta.
UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said anyone with coronavirus symptoms should still get a PCR test as soon as possible.
She said: "Covid-19 is spreading quickly among the population and the pace at which Omicron is transmitting may pose a risk to running our critical public services during winter.
"This new guidance will help break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods.
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"It is crucial that people carry out their LFD tests as the new guidance states and continue to follow public health advice."
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the new advice should help "reduce the disruption to people's everyday lives", and urged everyone to get the booster jab.
He said: "Following advice from our clinical experts, we are reducing the self-isolation period from 10 days to seven if you test negative on an LFD test for two days running.
"It's vital people keep playing their part by testing regularly and isolating if they test positive.
"And I urge you to get boosted now to protect yourself and those around you."
Speaking to BBC News, Mr Javid described the decision as a "sensible way forward".
He 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. It is great that when people do get infected that they are properly isolating, I think that clearly helps prevent infection.
"But it is important also to look at how we can have policies that can help to minimise that and this step, again informed by our clinicians, is a very sensible way forward."
The UKHSA added that unvaccinated adults who have come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus must still self-isolate until 10 days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus.