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Self-isolation rules: What’s changed?

1:42 pm, Monday, 16th August 2021 - 1 month ago

COVID-19

As the Government continues with its roadmap out of lockdown, today marks the end of the so called ‘pingdemic’ – meaning people under 18 or double vaccinated don’t have to isolate if they have had contact with someone with COVID-19. But what, in reality does this mean….

What is changing today?

You will no longer be required to self-isolate after confirmed close contact with a positive case of covid-19 if you are fully vaccinated or under 18. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated will be advised, as now, to take a PCR test as soon as possible, so that they can have certainty about their condition

 Why was this change no made sooner?

Although most restrictions have been lifted, and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. Waiting until mid-August to introduce this exemption has allowed more people to be fully vaccinated, significantly reducing the risk of severe illness and providing greater protection for people across the country.

 Why is this change being made while cases are still high?

Unlike in previous waves, the rise in cases driven by the Delta variant is not translating into a significant increase in hospitalisations and deaths. This is due to the effectiveness of the vaccine at reducing the risk of transmission and severe illness.

When will I still need to self-isolate? 

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should, as now, self-isolate while they wait for the results of a PCR test. Everyone who tests positive will still be legally required to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status. Close contacts of confirmed cases will still be legally required to self-isolate if they are over 18 and not fully vaccinated.

What if I haven’t been vaccinated?

If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, you will still need to self-isolate if you are identified as the close contact of a positive case, unless you are under 18.

What is meant by ‘fully vaccinated’?

Individuals are fully vaccinated when they are two weeks post-completion of a full course of an authorised vaccine administered in the UK. This is to allow for an antibody response to develop. You need both doses of a two-dose vaccine for maximum protection against COVID-19. You must have been fully vaccinated at the time of the contact with the positive case.

Can’t people still catch covid after vaccination? Isn’t this a big risk?

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at reducing the risk of transmission and severe illness. Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19 is estimated to be between 78%-80% (after both doses, where it is a two-dose vaccine). Although not everyone will be fully vaccinated from 16 August, the risk of onward transmission in the general population will be significantly reduced.

Should I get a test if I have COVID symptoms but have been vaccinated? Why?

Yes, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, arrange to have a PCR test. You should stay at home while you are waiting for a home test kit, a test site appointment or a test result.  Rapid lateral flow testing is available for free to anybody but is particularly important for those who are not fully vaccinated, those in education, and those in higher-risk settings such as the NHS, social care and prisons.

I am a contact of a positive case. Do I have to self-isolate while waiting for the results of my PCR test?

From today, if you are fully vaccinated or under 18 at the time of contact with a positive case, you will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate. You will instead be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible. You may wish to limit social contact whilst waiting for the results of your PCR test, but you are not required to self-isolate.

What about 18-year-olds who have not yet had a chance to be fully vaccinated?

To give those recently turned 18 the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, they will be treated in the same way as under 18s up until the age of 18 years and 6 months.

If contacts who are fully vaccinated or children are exempt from self-isolation, what is the point of contact tracing/NHSTT?

All positive cases, regardless of age or vaccination status, are contacted for three reasons:

o            To help ensure that they self-isolate and to check whether they need support to do this

o            To determine who they might have infected

o            To establish where and when they might have been infected, so that we can identify potential local outbreaks.

Tracing close contacts allows us to give them appropriate advice on testing and/or self-isolation, depending on their vaccination status and age.

How will people prove that they are fully vaccinated, or will it be on trust?

NHS Test and Trace will check whether you are legally required to self-isolate and will advise you what to do.

Why are the fully vaccinated not being asked to undertake daily contact testing?

Any fully vaccinated person identified as a close contact will continue to be asked to take an immediate PCR test to help identify positive cases. Based on the effectiveness of the vaccine at reducing the risk of transmission and projected levels of vaccination, the government does not consider that daily LFD testing in addition to PCR testing would be a proportionate measure. Individuals are however encouraged to continue taking twice weekly LFD tests.

Why are people being advised to take a PCR? Why not daily lateral flow tests?

Clinical advice suggests that a PCR test after two days will find a high proportion of cases. Based on the effectiveness of the vaccine at reducing the risk of transmission and projected levels of vaccination, the government does not consider that daily LFD testing in addition to PCR testing would be a proportionate measure. Individuals are however encouraged to continue taking twice weekly LFD tests.

Is the PCR test a legal requirement?

No, it will not be a legal requirement, but close contacts of confirmed cases will be strongly encouraged to take a PCR test to help identify positive cases and prevent risk to other people.

What happens if my PCR test comes back positive?

If your PCR test result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days  to avoid spreading the infection to other people. This will continue to be a legal requirement. Those you live with – and any close contacts outside your household – will either be required to self-isolate or advised to get a PCR test, depending on their age and vaccination status.

Why does this apply to under-18s when younger people (16/17) can or will soon be able to get the vaccine?

Currently 16 and 17 year olds are only being offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine and therefore do not have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.

 Will people who are identified as close contacts still receive a ‘ping’ but then know that they are able to ignore it, or will NHS Test and Trace be aware that people have had two vaccinations and not contact them?  What happens if a person has been vaccinated twice but they are still ‘pinged’?

All contacts will still be traced so they are aware that they have had close contact with a positive case and can be given public health advice that is appropriate for their age and vaccination status. In the event that a person is double vaccinated they will not be required to self isolate but will be advised to take a PCR test.

From 16 August, will staff already self-isolating be able to stop or is it only for newly identified close contacts from that date onwards who can stop self-isolating?

If they were fully vaccinated – or under 18½  – at the time of the contact with the person who tested positive, they can stop self-isolating from today.

Does the requirement for all close contacts lift, or will it extend to the household/bubble too? E.g. I am thinking about a colleague who has a member of their household who is positive, will the whole of their household still need to isolate regardless of vaccination status?

From today, all contacts who are fully vaccinated, or under the age of 18, will no longer have to self-isolate, including both household and non-household contacts.

What is meant by a close contact?

A contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can be a contact any time from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from 2 days before the date their positive test was taken), and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others. A risk assessment may be undertaken to determine this, but a contact can be:

What is meant by a close contact?

A contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can be a contact any time from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from 2 days before the date their positive test was taken), and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others. A risk assessment may be undertaken to determine this, but a contact can be:

•            anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19

•            anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

o            face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre

o            been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact

o            been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)

A person may also be a close contact if they have travelled in the same vehicle or plane as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Does the Test and Trace support payment change from today?

Financial support measures will continue to be available to people who are still required to self-isolate until at least the end of September 2021.

Who can apply for a Test and Trace support payment?

  • You may be able to get a payment of £500 to support you during self-isolation if you live in England and meet all of the following criteria:
  • You have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app, either because you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • You have responded to messages from NHS Test and Trace and have provided any legally required information, such as details of your close recent contacts.
  • You are employed or self-employed.
  • You are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating.
  • You are currently receiving, or are the partner of someone in the same household who is receiving, at least one qualifying benefit.

If you are not on one of these benefits but meet the other criteria, you are on a low income and you face financial hardship as a result of self-isolating, you could be eligible for a £500 discretionary payment.

To find out if you’re eligible, and to apply, go to www.nelincs.gov.uk/covid-19-guidance-and-support/covid-19-local-residents/covid-19-test-and-trace-support-payment.

 If you are eligible for either the Test and Trace support payment or a discretionary payment, you will receive the £500 payment in addition to any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay you currently receive.

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