The self-isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 in England will be cut from 10 days to seven for those who produce two negative lateral flow test (LFT) results on day six and seven since the start of their quarantine, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Wednesday. Javid said the change has been made in consultation with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and is aimed at reducing disruption to frontline services and other businesses. Under the previous rules, people had to self-isolate for 10 full days if they tested positive for coronavirus.
“We want to reduce the disruption to people’s everyday lives caused by the pandemic so today we will be cutting the self-isolation period from 10 days to seven days for those people that take a lateral flow on day six and day seven and the result of both those tests are negative, he said. This decision has been informed by the advice of our clinicians at the UKHSA who have looked at this very carefully and they are very comfortable that the protection provided by making this change so that people can leave isolation after day seven as long as they have taken these two lateral flow tests and the results are negative that the protection it provides is very similar to 10 days of isolation without tests, he said.
Of course, anyone who leaves after day seven under this new procedure should continue to remain cautious but we are also very clear that the very best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community is to make sure you get boosted if you’re eligible,” he added. The change follows warnings that the National Health Service (NHS), social care and other frontline services are looking at severe shortages amid the ongoing surge of the Omicron variant which took the UK’s COVID-19 daily infections above 90,000 in recent days.
The self-isolation period was reduced from 14 days to 10 back in December 2020 as the Alpha variant spread rapidly through parts of the UK. Recently, mandatory isolation was dropped for vaccinated close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case during the Delta wave this year and has now been replaced with daily LFTs. Most parts of the United Kingdom follow similar quarantine and social distancing rules, with varying degrees of lockdown intensity.
On Tuesday, Downing Street released a video of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to confirm that no further lockdown restrictions will be imposed across England ahead of Christmas over the weekend. However, he stressed that the Omicron data was monitored carefully and that the government may have to bring in tighter curbs post-Christmas next week. What I can say tonight is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas, and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data we will do whatever it takes to protect public health, he said.
Meanwhile, the UK recorded another 90,629 new COVID cases on Tuesday, which was only slightly down from the previous day’s 91,743. Many experts believe the peak of the Omicron variant in the UK may be hit this week and expect the infections to start plateauing soon.