17 January 2022
Covid update – isolation period in England - 17 January
Following the Health Secretary's announcement last week that the self-isolation period in England would be cut to five days in some circumstances, the UK Health and Security Agency (HSA) has today published more detailed guidance for healthcare settings.
Section 2.2. of the HSA guidance clarifies the circumstances in which healthcare staff can end the self-isolation period before the end of 10 days. In summary:
1. If a staff member tests positive for Covid, they must complete a period of self-isolation. Day 0 starts on the day symptoms started, or the day the test was taken if they do not have symptoms
2. The staff member can take a test on day five of the isolation period and again on day six. The test on day six must be at least 24 hours after the test on day five
3. If both tests are negative, they can immediately end their self-isolation period on day six
4. They can then return to work only if they meet specific criteria, including:
- Their symptoms have resolved, or they only have a cough or anosmia. This is because these two symptoms can continue for several weeks
- If the staff member works with people especially vulnerable to Covid-19, the employer undertakes a risk assessment that confirms it is safe to return to work. Otherwise, they should be redeployed or not return to work until the entire 10-day isolation period is complete
- The staff member should take a lateral flow test before beginning each shift and do this test as close as possible to their shift's start time
- They must continue to comply with all IPC measures at work, including the correct use of PPE
5. The staff member should continue taking a daily lateral flow test until day 10, even if they have returned to work. If any of these tests are positive, the staff member should isolate and wait 24 hours before taking a second test.
The HSA guidance also explains what managers can do if symptoms persist for more than 10 days.
Members in England are advised to read section 2.2. of the HSA guidance in detail.
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