From 10 to 7 to 5 days: Britain changes its self-isolation rules for COVID-19 patients

ByBusiness Standard News

Jan 14, 2022
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Britain on Thursday reduced the self-isolation period of COVID-19 patients to five full days from seven days earlier. The British health secretary Sajid Javid has said that from Monday people will be able to leave isolation if they get negative lateral flow tests on days 5 and 6.

Shoppers, some wearing face-masks, walk along Oxford Street in central London as compulsory mask wearing in shops has been reintroduced in England. AFP

Britain on Thursday reduced the self-isolation period of COVID-19 patients to five full days from seven days earlier.

The British health secretary Sajid Javid has said that from Monday people will be able to leave isolation if they get negative lateral flow tests on days five and six.

Here’s why the country is changing its self-isolation rules and everything you need to know:

What is the self-isolation rule

According to the British government, if a person tests positive for COVID-19 they must self-isolate as per the law.

“The law states that you must self-isolate for 10 days. However this change enables people who are not infectious, proven via two negative tests over two days, which can start from day 5, to leave isolation on day 6,” it says.

If individuals test positive during their isolation period it does not restart the clock for the 10-day isolation period. Day 0 of the isolation period is when you first show symptoms or, if asymptomatic, the day you took your test.

The rules apply whether an individual is vaccinated or not.

Why reduce the self-isolation period

The default self-isolation period continues to be 10 days, and one may only leave self-isolation early if they have taken two rapid lateral flow tests and do not have a temperature in line with the guidance.

According to the BBC, the British government has touted the move as a way to reduce staffing pressures in some sectors, including the National Health Service, and “will support essential public services and keep supply chains running over the winter”.

The self-isolation period was cut from 10 to seven days with negative tests on days six and seven back in December, but only under certain conditions.

Conditions to leave self-isolation

People self-isolating with COVID-19 will have the option to reduce their isolation period after five full days if they test negative on both day five and day six and do not have a temperature.

The individuals who are still positive on their rapid lateral flow tests must stay in isolation until they have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days, the UK government has said.

For instance, if an individual is positive on day five, then a negative test is required on both day six and day seven to release from self-isolation, or positive on day six, then a negative test is required on days seven and eight, and so on until the end of day 10.

Further caution

The government has advised those who leave self-isolation on or after day six to wear face masks and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.

They have also been advised to work from home and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.

The government said that the rules for contacts have not changed as fully vaccinated individuals who are identified as contacts of someone with COVID-19 are advised to take daily rapid lateral flow tests for seven days but are not legally required to self-isolate.

Unvaccinated contacts are legally required to self-isolate for the full 10-day period.

Why extra caution is advised for negative individuals

Under the current testing rules, around 6 per cent of people will be infectious when they are released from isolation on day seven following two consecutive negative rapid lateral flow tests.

If one leaves isolation on day six, between 20 and 30 per cent of people are still infectious.
The percentage of those released while infectious is reduced to around 7 per cent if people have 2 consecutive negative tests and then leave isolation from day 6.

With inputs from agencies

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