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Period of Self-Isolation Following Covid Exposure

23 December 2021

As you may have heard the Health Secretary has announced that the required period for self-isolation following a Covid exposure in England was now seven rather than 10 days (subject to negative lateral flow results on days six and seven).

UKHSA has confirmed this guidance also applies to healthcare workers, although when going back into a work setting, healthcare workers are asked to continue testing on days 8, 9 and 10 (see section 2.2 of updated UKHSA guidance issued today).

There is no change to the guidance for unvaccinated contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, who are still required to self-isolate for 10 full days after their date of exposure to the virus.

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests that a 7-day isolation period alongside 2 negative lateral flow test results has nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without LFD testing for people with COVID-19.

The new approach reflects latest evidence on how long cases transmit the virus for and supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus.

Studies also demonstrate that LFD tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant, as they are for Delta.

Existing public health measures remain in place including:

  • Staying at home if you feel unwell
  • Get a test if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms
  • Wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces
  • Work from home if possible
  • Maintain social distancing and regular hand washing
  • Take up the offer of the free COVID-19 vaccine

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:

“COVID-19 is spreading quickly among the population and the pace at which Omicron is transmitting may pose a risk to running our critical public services during winter.  This new guidance will help break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods. It is crucial that people carry out their LFD tests as the new guidance states and continue to follow public health advice.

“As always, we urge everyone who is eligible to get their booster jab without delay, wear a mask in crowded spaces, on public transport and in shops, wash your hands regularly and ventilate rooms well. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms stay at home and get a PCR test as soon as possible.”

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