Covid self isolate rules: When do I self isolate and for how long under new Omicron Covid rules?

The new measures to tackle the Omicron Covid variant include fresh guidance on self-isolation guidance, here it is
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The UK’s Covid alert level has been increased from level three to level four as more than 3,000 Omicron cases have been detected, prompting some restrictions to be reintroduced under the government’s winter ‘Plan B’.

The new coronavirus strain, first detected in South Africa, is feared to be more transmissible than other mutations, with scientists concerned it could reduce the protection offered by vaccines.

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New Covid measures have been temporarily put in place across England to help control the spread of the Omicron variant.

Face masks are mandatory in indoor venues in England once again and guidance on self-isolation for contacts of Covid-19 cases has also been tightened to minimise further spread.

Here’s everything you need to know about the changes.

When do I need to self-isolate?

All unvaccinated adults must self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of someone who tests positive for Covid-19.

From Tuesday (14 December), those who are double jabbed and identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19 in England will be told to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days instead of isolating.

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This guidance applies to all cases of coronavirus, regardless of whether it is the Omicron variant or other strains.

The government has said all contacts will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace via text message, email or phone.

You can be a contact of someone with Covid-19 any time from two days before that person developed symptoms, or took a positive test, and up to 10 days after.

Contacts will be advised to get a box of seven lateral flow tests free of charge from NHS Test and Trace either through pharmacies, schools or home delivery by ordering online.

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As is the case now, anyone whose rapid test comes back positive, or who develops Covid symptoms, should self-isolate and take a PCR test to verify the result.

If the PCR result comes back positive, contacts must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms, and do not need to continue taking rapid tests during that isolation period.

If the PCR result comes back negative, contacts can leave self-isolation but should continue to take rapid tests for the remainder of the seven days.

The DHSC said anyone identified as a contact with a negative lateral flow test is “strongly advised” to limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces and with anyone who is more vulnerable.

How long do I have to self-isolate?

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If you are required to self-isolate, the isolation period includes the date you were last in contact with the person who has tested positive and the next 10 full days.

During this period, you must stay at home and not leave your house to go to work, school, or public areas, or use public transport.

You must not go outside to buy food or other essentials, except in specific limited circumstances.

Exercise must only be taken within your home, garden or private outdoor space.

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In some cases, the person you have been in close contact with will be asked by NHS Test and Trace to take a follow up Covid-19 test.

If this result is negative you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to let you know you can stop self-isolating.

You can only end self-isolation before 10 full days are complete if you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to do so.

Do I need to take a test?

Government guidance states that you should arrange to take a PCR test as soon as possible within your 10 day isolation period to allow NHS Test and Trace to identify people you have been in contact with.

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You can do this by ordering a home test kit online or booking an appointment at a test site.

It is recommended that test sites are only used if you are unable to use the home PCR testing service.

If your PCR test result is negative, you should still stay at home and self-isolate as you could still become infectious during this period.

If your PCR test result is positive, you should follow the advice for people with Covid-19 to stay at home and start a further full 10 day isolation period, regardless of where you are in your original 10 day isolation period. This means your total isolation period will be longer than 10 days.

When will the new self-isolation rules be reviewed?

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the new measures in England are temporary and precautionary, and will be reviewed by 20 December, just before Christmas.

The government has said it will keep rules under constant review to ensure they only remain necessary and proportionate.

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