New Covid isolation guidelines introduced in England

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Wednesday 9th January 2022

New Covid isolation guidelines have been introduced in England. From Monday 17th January, people who test positive for Covid-19 will only have to isolate for five full days, provided that they test negative on days 5 and 6. Previously, the isolation period was 10 days or 7 days with negative test results on days 6 and 7. 

The quarantine period has been reduced to try and reduce staff shortages, particularly in the healthcare, education and transport industries. Ministers took advice based on scientific data from the UK Health Security Agency, which suggests that 75% of people are not infectious after day 5. 
Under the new measures, people who have Covid-19 should take a lateral flow test on day 5. If the test result is negative, they should do another LFT 24 hours later. If the result is negative again, they will be free to exit isolation. 

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed the change in guidance, suggesting that it represented a “balanced and proportionate” response. Case numbers rose very steeply in December due to the prevalence of the Omicron variant, but recent data suggests that they are now falling. With the UK Health Security Agency suggesting that two-thirds of people are not infectious on day 5 and studies indicating that Omicron is less likely to cause severe disease, especially among those who have had a booster vaccine, the government is looking to minimise disruption as much as possible. Mr Javid said that the new isolation rules would “restore extra freedoms” and “reduce the pressure on essential public services.”

People who test positive on day 5 should continue to isolate and repeat testing until they test negative on two consecutive days. 

The government has also announced that eligible 16 and 17-year-olds in England will be able to book a booster vaccine from Monday 17th January. This will apply to around 40,000 teenagers who had their second vaccine dose at least 3 months ago. In the weeks ahead, more than 600,000 16 and 17-year-olds will be eligible for the third dose.