The British government announced on Wednesday that Covid-19 self-isolation would be shortened from ten days to seven days for people in England who get two consecutive negative results on lateral flow tests.
Throughout the UK, the Omicron variant has spread rapidly and there have been record levels of cases over the past week. Many industries, including hospitals, are suffering from staff shortages, and patient safety has been questioned.
An analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) concluded that two negative lateral flow test results within a seven-day isolation period would have approximately the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without testing.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said, “We want Covid-19 to cause the least disruption to people’s everyday lives.”
A rapid lateral flow test allows people to perform the test at home and can obtain a result in 15 to 30 minutes. This test is provided by the British National Health Service for free.
Government officials are no longer ordering 10 days of self-isolation for those who receive a negative lateral flow result after the sixth and seventh days of the self-isolation period, did not take the tests 24 hours apart.
After seven days of self-isolation, UKHSA advises people to limit their contact with others in crowded or poorly ventilated areas, to work from home and to minimise contact with people most at risk from Covid-19.
UKHSA says the new approach is based on new evidence about how long the virus survives in cases, and supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter while still limiting the spread of the virus.