The NHS has given its support to the government announcement that people with COVID-19 in England can end their self-isolation after 5 full days, as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6.

The move will start on Monday, January 17th 2002 and the NHS hope the move will go some way to alleviating its staffing crisis.

The Department for Health says the decision has been made after careful consideration of modelling from the UK Health Security Agency and to support essential public services and workforces over the winter.

It adds that it is crucial that people isolating with COVID-19 wait until they have received 2 negative rapid lateral flow tests on 2 consecutive days to reduce the chance of still being infectious.

Health Secretary comment

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “After reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to 5 full days in England.” 

He added: “These 2 tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans and I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we’ve built up in tests so we can restore more freedom to this country, whilst we are keeping everyone safe.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation welcomed the announcement, saying: “This is a pragmatic move which leaders will welcome if it can mean more health and care workers who are well enough can return to the frontline, providing it does not significantly add to the risk of the virus spreading.”

The move will also mean office workers can return to the office after two negative lateral flow tests.

However, Mr Taylor warned: “The number of people in hospital is still high, with admissions still rising in the North of England and alongside that, the NHSfaces a huge care backlog and significant vacancies. Leaders are grateful for the military support that has been made available to help deliver hospital services as well as the three-month agreement with the independent sector but we are certainly not out of the woods yet. 

Frontline staff vaccinations before Feb 3rd

Meanwhile, employers are being advised against dismissing frontline staff who refuse the Covid-19 vaccinations.

Under new regulations, all frontline workers, as well as non-clinical workers who have direct, face to-face contact with patients, will need to have both doses of the Covid vaccine by 1 April 2022.

In order to meet the deadline, people will need to have had their first jab administered by 3 February 2022, allowing the recommended eight weeks before receiving their second, as advised by The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The new regulations affects around 630,000 clinical NHS staff, as well as agency workers and contractors in frontline roles, medical transport services, dentists, pharmacists, and non-clinical staff like receptionists

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR says: “The date of 3 February is an incredibly important one to bear in mind as employees that have not received their first jab by then, are very unlikely to be fully vaccinated by the time the new regulations come into force.

He advises employers to iInvite employees to a formal meeting ahead of the February deadline and keep them informed of the mandate.

Mr Price also says all exempt staff must be told they will have to provide official proof of exemption before 1 April, but says employers need to act now: “The first step would be to encourage all staff to be vaccinated unless they’re exempt, providing paid time off to attend clinics and perhaps even transport for staff from the workplace to appointments.

He adds: “Dismissing unvaccinated and non-exempt staff should always be a last resort, so they will need to be redeployed to non-frontline roles where possible.

After April 1, 2022, anyone who remains unvaccinated without official proof of medical exemption granted by a GP will have to be redeployed to a non-patient facing role or dismissed.