Daily Rapid LFD Testing for Covid-19 Close Contacts Launched – Changes To Self-Isolation Rules For England Announced:
(Self-Isolation Rules For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland explained also below and attached)
From Tuesday, 14 December the UK Government, through the Department of Health and Social Care issued new guidance in respect to changes to the self-isolation rules in England as set out below.
In summary, fully vaccinated close contacts of a Covid-19 case should take a daily lateral flow device test for 7 days instead of self-isolating. The Government state that this is designed to slow the spread of the virus.
- Those who test positive or develop symptoms will need to self-isolate.
- Unvaccinated adults must continue to self-isolate for 10 days if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
- This rule change follows a significant rise in Covid-19 Omicron variant cases in the UK with the new variant expected to become the dominant virus strain by mid-December.
From Tuesday 14 December, people who are fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19 – whether Omicron or not – should take an NHS rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test every day for 7 days to help slow the spread of Covid-19.
The practical move comes as Omicron variant infections are rising significantly in the UK and it is expected to become the dominant strain in the UK by mid-December. It aims to reduce pressures on people’s everyday lives by replacing the requirement for Omicron contacts to isolate for 10 days, while protecting the public by identifying asymptomatic cases and stopping the chains of transmission. Testing daily will also help us understand how and where the virus is spreading.
Close contacts of people who test positive are at higher risk of getting Covid-19 and, with 1 in 3 people asymptomatic (positive but showing no symptoms), daily testing will help ensure that the 1 in 3 infected people with no symptoms are not unknowingly passing the virus on to others.
As now, anyone whose rapid LFD test comes back positive or who develops Covid-19 symptoms should self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test to verify the result. If the PCR result comes back positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms. They do not need to continue taking rapid tests during that 10-day isolation period once confirmed positive. If the PCR result comes back negative, they can stop self-isolation but should continue to take rapid tests for the remainder of the 7 days.
Anyone identified as a close contact with a negative rapid lateral flow device test result 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. They should also follow government guidance on wearing a face covering and working from home where possible.
Unvaccinated adults are not eligible for this new daily testing policy, they must self-isolate for 10 days if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive for Covid-19 – Omicron variant or not – unless eligible for existing workplace daily contact testing.
The government state that they are taking this proportionate and more practical measure to limit the impact on people’s day to day lives while helping to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
Rapid tests are freely available in pharmacies and online. In Royal Mail Group they can also be obtained through the Workforce Testing Scheme where they can be requested and will be delivered to the workplace.
People may be contacted by NHS Test and Trace by phone, email or text or they will receive a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and they will be advised as to what action they need to take.
They will be advised to get a box of 7 lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, free of charge from NHS Test and Trace either through pharmacies, schools, home delivery by ordering online or at the Workplace. People are encouraged to use the tests they already have at home before ordering more. People should take these tests from the day they are notified as being a close contact and report their results to NHS Test and Trace on GOV.UK or by calling 119.
Testing with isolation remains a vital tool in controlling the spread of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant given how quickly it passes from person to person. Extensive clinical evaluation shows lateral flow device (LFD) tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community and detect 80 to 90% of people that are highly infectious very quickly, so more people who are at a high likelihood of spreading the virus isolate and prevent the variant from spreading to others.
The Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday 8 December that England will move to Plan B following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK. This means people are advised to wear face masks/coverings, work from home where possible, practice good hygiene standards – washing hands and sanitising, ventilate indoor spaces and get plenty of fresh air. Face coverings are now compulsory in most indoor venues and on public transport.
The government and NHS have expanded and sped-up the vaccination and booster programme to be delivered via 1,500 community pharmacy sites, additional hospital hubs and pop-up sites will be opening in convenient locations across the country. Extra financial support is being given to GPs, community pharmacies and primary care staff will help boost capacity and encourage more visits to those who are housebound.
Daily rapid testing applies to all contacts who are:
- fully vaccinated adults – people who have had 2 jabs
- all children aged 5 to 18 years and 6 months, regardless of their vaccination status
- people who can prove they are unable to be vaccinated for clinical reasons
- people taking part, or have taken part, in an approved clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine
Under 5s are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily rapid lateral flow device testing.
Self-Isolation Rules For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
See attached flow charts which have helpfully been produced by the Royal Mail Group Occupational Health Team, explaining the different self-isolation rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which differ significantly and can be somewhat confusing as there are variations between each nation. Added to this are variations between Omricon and Non-Omricon variant infections and variations between household and non-household close contacts – so please read the flow charts carefully.
- Message From Dr. Shaun Davis RMG Director SHE, Compliance & Sustainability – “Daily rapid testing for seven days in England, face coverings and travel at Christmas”
- RMG Self-Isolation Rules Flow Charts; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer