The legal requirement to quarantine after close contact with people testing positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus has now ended in England, but only for those under 18 or who have been double vaccinated.
The requirement to self-isolate—currently for 10 days—has been in place in various forms since the beginning of the pandemic and was one of the few remaining restrictions in England after so-called Freedom Day last month.
The date of the change in self-isolation policy, Aug. 16, was announced last month.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid previously described the change as a “huge step back towards our normal lives.”
If contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service, people who are double vaccinated are now advised to get a PCR test.
That test will not be compulsory and they will not have to self-isolate while they wait for the result.
People who test positive for the virus or have symptoms are still legally required to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status.
Those over the age of 18 who have not had two doses of the vaccine must still self-isolate if a close contact tests positive for the virus.
Breaking self-isolation rules is subject to punishment by a £1,000 fine, which in theory can increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences “and for the most egregious breaches.”
However, with past public surveys suggesting very low levels of compliance with the rules, it appears only a tiny fraction have ever been fined.
Since the start of the pandemic only 165 people have been fined for failing to self-isolate in England and Wales after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace, according to data from May 2021.
£500 in compensation is still available for those on low incomes who have to isolate.
The change in policy for under-18s comes before pupils return to school and college in England, meaning the previous “bubble” system will end, along with social distancing and staggered start and finish times.
“Two on-site tests should be taken by each secondary school and college student on return, followed by twice-weekly testing at home,” said a Health Department statement. “The government will review testing requirements by the end of September. ”
There are exemptions from the requirement to self-isolate for “those who can evidence that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”
The government says that updates will be made to the COVID-19 app in line with the new requirements.
“If someone is called by NHS Test and Trace and told they are a contact, they will be asked their age and their vaccination status,” according to the Health Department.
“If using the NHS COVID-19 app, people will be asked to self-declare if they are under 18 or double vaccinated.”
There are a few extra requirements for health and social care staff. If a close contact tests positive, they will require a negative PCR test to go work, and will need to take daily lateral flow tests for 10 days.
Currently, according to official statistics, over three quarters of adults have now had two vaccinations.
In July, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said if officers are given information that someone is not self-isolating they are “guided to visit their address and encourage the person to isolate or issue an FPN [fixed penalty notice] if the person is blatantly breaching the regulations and refuses to comply.”
PA contributed to this report