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Reduced isolation period for COVID-19: what nurses need to know

In England the number of days fully-vaccinated people who have tested positive need to stay in self-isolation has been cut to reduce strain on health services

In England the number of days fully-vaccinated people who have tested positive need to stay in self-isolation has been cut to reduce strain on health services

The self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people in England who have tested positive for COVID-19 has been cut to seven days in a bid to relieve staffing pressures on front-line health and social care settings.

Here is what nurses need to know as the government changes the rules on isolating with COVID-19.

What are the changes?

From 22 December, fully vaccinated people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full ten days.

In England the number of days fully-vaccinated people who have tested positive need to stay in self-isolation has been cut to reduce strain on health services

Picture shows COVID-19 lateral flow test result
Picture: Alamy

The self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people in England who have tested positive for COVID-19 has been cut to seven days in a bid to relieve staffing pressures on front-line health and social care settings.

Here is what nurses need to know as the government changes the rules on isolating with COVID-19.

What are the changes?

From 22 December, fully vaccinated people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full ten days.

It is hoped the rule change will ease pressure on the NHS, which is experiencing high numbers of staff absences as COVID-19 infection rates soar.

What does this mean for nurses?

Across the NHS there has been an increase in staff absences as infections rise and nurses and other staff are required to isolate at home. In London staff absences linked to COVID-19 were up more than 140% from 1,900 on 12 December to 4,700 on 16 December, according to NHS Providers.

But the changes now mean that nurses who test negative after a lateral flow test for two days in a row, on day six and day seven of self-isolation, will be able to return to work.

Anyone who tests positive on day six or seven will be required to continue isolating but take a negative lateral flow test every 24 hours. Once two tests have produced negative results they are no longer required to self-isolate.

Those who are not fully vaccinated have to continue isolating for the full ten days.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed that NHS staff can return to work after completing a negative lateral flow test on day six and day seven of isolation, but are required to continue testing for the full ten days.

Nurses returning to work should continue to follow hygiene guidance and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, masks remain mandatory for staff and visitors. Government infection prevention and control guidance for winter suggests mandatory mask wearing is likely to remain until at least March 2022.

Will this ease staffing pressure?

The government said in a statement that the new approach ‘supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus’.

Health minister Gillian Keegan told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that testing to leave isolation ‘will relieve some of the pressure’ on staffing in health and social care settings.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said that the measures are just as effective as the previous guidance, where people were instructed to isolate for ten days without testing.

What should you do if you get pinged by Track and Trace?

Rules on this have recently changed. People aged over five who are told by the NHS track and Trace app that they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 are now advised to do a daily lateral flow test for a week.

Adults do not need to self-isolate if they are fully vaccinated, unless they get a positive test result or experience symptoms of COVID-19.

If you get a positive result, then you should isolate immediately and order a PCR test.


Further information

NHS Test and Trace: what to do if you are contacted


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