Businesses have hailed the new isolation rules, which has seen the Covid-19 isolation period drop from ten days to seven.
The new measures, which started yesterday (Wednesday) means workers only have to isolate for seven days, if they are fully vaccinated and have taken two negative Covid-19 tests.
Those who are not fully vaccinated will still have to isolate for ten days, if they have tested positive or been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive.
People who leave isolation after seven days are being “strongly advised” to limit close contact with others, especially those at higher risk; they are also being asked to work from home.
The health secretary Sajid Javid said: “We are reducing the self-isolation period from ten days to seven if you test negative on a lateral flow test for two days running. It’s vital people keep playing their part by testing regularly and isolating if they test positive. And I urge you to get boosted now to protect yourself and those around you.”
Businesses welcome isolation period reduction
The rail industry and other businesses have welcomed the move, saying it would help reduce the rate of train cancellations.
Other businesses say this would ease the high numbers of staff shortages in retail, leisure and hospitality due to Covid-19 self-isolations.
Meanwhile, the TUC said millions are unable to isolate because they could not afford to do so, as sick pay is too low.
The union said around two million workers did not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP), and criticised the UK for having one of the lowest rates of SSP in Europe.
TUC secretary general Frances O’Grady said: “The failure to provide decent sick pay is forcing people to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table. It’s a gaping hole in our defenses.”
She called for sick pay to rise to Real Living Wage standards: “Ministers must raise sick pay to the level of the real living wage, and every worker should be able to get it. That’s how we make sure people can follow the rules and reduce the spread of Covid.”
Meanwhile, analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed a seven-day isolation period with two negative lateral flow tests has almost the same effect as a ten day isolation period with no tests.
The UKHSA chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “Covid-19 is spreading quickly among the population and the pace at which Omicron is transmitting may pose a risk to running our critical public services during winter.
“This new guidance will help break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods. It is crucial that people carry out their lateral flow tests as the new guidance states and continue to follow public health advice.”