Self-isolation for those with Covid-19 can end after five full days following two negative lateral flow tests on days 5 and 6
For the second time in less than four weeks the self isolation rules in England are changing.
From today (Monday) people with Covid-19 will be able to end their self isolation after five whole days providing they are testing negative for the virus.
Health secretary Sajid Javid announced on Thursday that he was going to cut the self-isolation period for patients in England to 'five full days'.
The change is the second amendment to self-isolation rules in the last month - the first took place on December 22 when the 10-day isolation period was reduced to seven days, with proof of two negative tests on days six and seven.
What are the new rules?
When coronavirus first emerged in March 2020 people were told to isolate from the day of their positive test result or the day their symptoms started - whichever came first and classed as day nought- and then the next 10 whole days.
As of today people in England will be able to come out of isolation after five full days providing they test and register negative lateral flow tests on day five and the morning of day six and no longer have a temperature.
The government says it hopes the change will support essential public services and keep supply chains running over winter as more people in quarantine are freed to go back to work. The move also follows similar policies already in place in other countries including Greece and the United States.
What do patients need to do?
Day one of a Covid19 self-isolation period begins the day after either your symptoms start or you receive either a positive lateral flow or PCR test result and the default self-isolation period, insists health officials, continues to be 10 whole days.
For those with the virus looking to end their self-isolation period after less than a week, they must take their first lateral flow test - to see if they are now showing a negative result - no earlier than day five of that isolation period.
If that is clear, a second lateral flow test on the following day (day six) must be taken to confirm the first result, and if that is also clear and then registered on the government website you will be permitted to leave home.
But those leaving self-isolation on or after day six are being strongly advices to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, work from home if they can and minimise contact with anyone vulnerable.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "After reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.
"These two tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans and I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we’ve built up in tests so we can restore more freedom to this country, whilst we are keeping everyone safe."
What about those still testing positive?
The government says, according to data scrutinised from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), that around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five.
But individuals after this new cut-off who are still testing positive on lateral flow tests completed at home - or who are still unwell with a high temperature - must remain in isolation as they are likely to still be infectious.
Only those who have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days after day five - and without any signs of a fever - can leave their self-isolation earlier than the full 10-day period.
For instance, if an individual is still positive on day five, then a negative test is required on both day six and day seven to release from self-isolation, or if they are still positive on day six, then a negative test is required on days seven and eight in order to leave early, and so on until the end of day 10 when anyone with Covid is free of isolation providing they are now well.
The rules for contacts of anyone testing positive will remain the same. Fully vaccinated individuals who are identified as contacts of someone with Covid19 should take daily rapid lateral flow tests for seven days but are no longer legally required to self-isolate. Unvaccinated contacts however must self-isolate for the full 10 days despite any negative coronavirus result they receive.