THE REQUIRED period of self-isolation for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 in England has been reduced from 10 days to seven, but only if negative lateral flow tests are recorded on the sixth and final day.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid made the announcement this morning, Wedndesday 22 December, with the decision being made to "reduce the disruption to people's everyday lives caused by the pandemic".
If a negative lateral flow test is produced on day six of isolation, and again no less than 24 hours later, an individual can leave isolation.
He said the protection these two negative tests provide alongside a seven-day isolation period is "very similar" to ten days of isolation without tests.
However, he also said those leaving quarantine after day seven in this manner should "continue to remain cautious".
Anybody who cannot produce negative tests on day six and seven must continue to self-isolate.
The change in policy will likely ease pressure on business and employers facing staff shortages amid soaring Covid cases due to the spread of Omicron.
Those whose original eighth, ninth and tenth days of isolation fell on Christmas may now also be able to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones, including Irish people who are isolating in England.
"It is great that when people do get infected that they are properly isolating," Mr Javid said. "I think that clearly helps to stop and prevent infection.
"But it is important also to look at how we can have policies that will help to minimise that. And this step - again, informed by our clinicians - I think is a very sensible way forward."
There is no change to the guidance for unvaccinated positive cases, or unvaccinated contacts of positive Covid cases. Both groups still have to self-isolate for the full 10 days after their date of exposure to the virus.
He also repeated the prime minister's words that there will be no tougher restrictions introduced in England before Christmas, but that the government was looking at all the data "on a daily basis", which is carefully kept under review.
"If new restrictions are required - should the data show that they are required then, of course, we won't hesitate to act," Mr Javid said.