Covid self-isolation period cut from 10 days to seven in bid to save Christmas

22 December 2021, 00:09 | Updated: 22 December 2021, 00:52

The self-isolation period can be reduced by taking two lateral flow tests.
The self-isolation period can be reduced by taking two lateral flow tests. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

People infected with Covid can now take two lateral flow tests to cut down their self-isolation period, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

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Under the latest advice, two tests can be taken 24 hours apart - on day six and seven of an isolation period - and, if the results are negative, quarantine can come to an end.

The last-minute change could see thousands free from their isolation in time for Christmas.

However, the UKHSA said people who leave self-isolation on day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and to continue working from home.

It comes after analysis from the UKHSA found that a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had nearly the same protective effect as 10 days of isolation.

Unvaccinated adults who have come into contact with someone infected with the virus will still need to self-isolate for 10 days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus.

Read more: 'Go ahead with your plans': Boris Johnson confirms no new Covid restrictions for Christmas

Read more: 'Dangerous' loophole allows travellers to provide fake Covid test code to enter UK

UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said anyone with coronavirus symptoms should still get a PCR test as soon as possible.

"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," she said.

"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."

Health Secretary Sajid Javid explained that the reviewed advice would help reduce disruption to people's everyday lives.

He added: "Following advice from our clinical experts, we are reducing the self-isolation period from 10 days to seven if you test negative on an LFD test for two days running.

"It's vital people keep playing their part by testing regularly and isolating if they test positive.

"And I urge you to get boosted now to protect yourself and those around you."

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that no new Covid restrictions would be introduced ahead of Christmas.

He said evidence does not justify "any tougher measures" but refused to rule out more measures after the big day.