Fully-vaccinated people who are identified as close contacts of someone with Covid-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate from 16 August, the Government has announced.
The announcement forms part of plans revealed by the Prime Minister yesterday in which he set out the easing of all major Covid restrictions, including ending the legal requirement to wear a face covering in any setting and bringing in second Covid vaccine doses at eight weeks for all adults.
It follows the closure of GP practices across the country due to members of staff being off work because of self-isolation or Covid symptoms.
Announcing further details on the easing of self-isolation measures today, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that ‘double-vaccinated people will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case’.
The new rules will come into effect from 16 August if the Government goes ahead with the fourth stage of its roadmap on 19 July by removing all major Covid restrictions – which is set to be confirmed on Monday – it said.
Under-18s will also be exempt from isolation if they are a close contact so that they ‘can make the most of their education as restrictions continue to ease’, the DHSC added, following the controversy surrounding large numbers of children being off school.
However, all contacts of positive Covid cases will still be ‘advised’ to take a PCR test and will be legally required to isolate if they receive a positive result ‘irrespective of their vaccination status’, it said.
And those who receive their second vaccine dose ‘just before or after’ 16 August will need to wait two weeks after their vaccination date before becoming eligible for the exemption, it added.
Introducing the exemption from August ‘will enable even more people to have received both doses of the vaccine, significantly reducing the risk of severe illness and providing the fullest protection possible for people across the country’, the DHSC said.
The NHS Covid-19 app will be updated in August in line with the new guidance, it added.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament that the Government can ‘can safely take steps to reduce self-isolation’ thanks to the UK’s ‘phenomenal’ vaccine programme.
He added: ‘Asking people with Covid-19 and their close contacts to self-isolate has played a critical role in helping us get this virus under control, and I’m so grateful to the millions of people across the UK who have made sacrifices to keep the virus at bay.
‘This new approach means we can manage the virus in a way that’s proportionate to the pandemic, while maintaining the freedoms that are so important to us all.’
The DHSC added that regular testing ‘remains critical to controlling the virus as restrictions ease’.
In November, the Prime Minister said that GPs who come into close contact with a person who tests positive for Covid-19 might soon be able to take a lateral flow test and avoid self-isolation.
However, when lateral flow testing was rolled out to GP practices the following month, GPs were told that they must still isolate if advised to do so by Test and Trace or the Covid-19 app even if they tested negative.