The government has announced that those who test positive for Covid-19 in England can end their self-isolation after five full days if testing negative
From Monday 17 January, people who have tested positive for Covid-19 can end their isolation after five full days if they test negative on a lateral flow test on days five and six and do not have a temperature.
The new guidance for isolating states that the first test must be taken no earlier than day five of the self-isolation period, and the second must be taken the following day, two negative tests are needed on two consecutive days.
If an individual is positive on day five, then a negative test is required on day six and day seven to be released from isolation. This continues until the tenth day, which is the default end date for isolation.
The new guidance also advises that if leaving isolation earlier than 10 days then a face covering should be worn, contact with others in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces is avoided, work from home if they can do so and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19.
The rules have not changed for those who are identified as a close contact although the government is currently looking into updating this guidance.
The government state that it is crucial that people follow this guidance properly to ensure that they are not still infectious when they leave isolation.
Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary said: ‘These two tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans and I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we’ve built up in tests so we can restore more freedom to this country, whilst we are keeping everyone safe.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that reducing the isolation period would help ease the disruption of staff shortages amid the current wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant.
Many business bodies, including a number of cabinet ministers, called on the government to follow the steps of the US who cut its isolation period to five days from 10 last month.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has praised the government for the change, stating that it will provide an immediate benefit for businesses in England.
Matthew Fell, chief policy director, CBI UK said: ‘Firms are under the cosh dealing with mounting staff absences from self-isolation, so this move should have an almost immediate benefit.
‘Businesses have been urging a reduction in the self-isolation period, providing health experts confirm it is safe, as a pragmatic change that will help keep the economy open as we adapt to live with the virus.’
The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) also praised the decision stating that it was a ‘relief to see policy makers embrace our recommendation’.
Mike Cherry, national chairman, FSB said, ‘Over the last month we have made the case that, if it can be done safely, shortening the isolation period would make a huge difference to the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that currently have staff off work.
‘Mass isolation of two million people has hit the workforce just at the moment when firms are trying to bounce back from yet another disrupted festive season.’
The body now called on the government to ‘make good on past promises and deliver a world leading test-and-trace infrastructure’ with the group also calling on the government to relaunch the workplace testing initiative which closed last summer.