People who self-isolate after contracting COVID-19 in England could be released up to three days earlier, subject to lateral flow test results, the government has announced.
For many, it could mean that they’ll get out of isolation in time to see their families during Christmas.
Announcing the change, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told broadcasters that ministers made the decision following advice from clinical experts because they “want to reduce the disruption from COVID-19 to people’s everyday lives.”
The current self-isolation period for people who test positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and their unvaccinated contacts who are aged 18 years 6 months or over is 10 days.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Dec. 22 updated the guidance, saying people who are in isolation after testing positive can take lateral flow tests from day 6, and stop isolating once they have two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.
But the guidance remains unchanged for close contacts of COVID-19 cases, meaning unvaccinated contacts still have to complete the full 10-day period of self-isolation, while fully vaccinated contacts are “strongly advised” to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days.
Asked what the rationale was behind the decision to cut short the isolation period for positive cases but not their contacts, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care referred The Epoch Times to the UKHSA, which didn’t reply to a request for comment by press time.
“Fully vaccinated” is currently defined as 14 days after having received a second dose of Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, or Moderna/Spikevax, or one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.
Speaking to BBC News, Javid said the rule change is a “very sensible, balanced, and proportionate take.”
After the Omicron CCP virus was discovered in the UK, the government reinstated mask mandates in most indoor settings and introduced the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry to nightclubs and large events in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Dec. 21 that no more restrictions will be imposed before Christmas due to “the continuing uncertainty” about the severity of Omicron, the hospitalisation rate, or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters.”
“We don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” Johnson said. But the prime minister also said he “can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas.”
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the BBC’s “Good Morning Scotland” programme on Dec. 22 that the Scottish government was considering shortening the self-isolation period, “which can try to ease pressure on public services.”
“But what we have to recognise is that the number of cases is likely to become so significant that it is going to give rise to significant absence levels from our private and public services,” Swinney said.
Both Scotland and Wales have announced a series of new restrictions that will come into effect after Christmas.