Who has to self-isolate - and what rules are changing?

A message to self-isolate, with one day of required isolation remaining

A message to self-isolate, with one day of required isolation remaining, is displayed on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app - Credit: PA

An estimated 1.7million people are currently self-isolating across the UK amid the "pingdemic". But what are the current rules?

Although "Freedom Day" on July 19 saw the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions being lifted, self-isolation requirements have not as yet been changed.

From August 16, people who have been double vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate if they test negative for Covid. Businesses have warned of the "pingdemic" causing chaos and called for an earlier change.

Prime minister Boris Johnson also announced yesterday during his press conference that isolation rules will be relaxed for a “small number” of fully-vaccinated critical workers who are identified as close contacts of coronavirus cases.

old and young hands

A small number of fully vaccinated staff in sectors such as hospitals and care homes are set to see isolation rules relaxed - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This will include sectors such as hospitals, care homes and food production. However, the Government said it is “not a blanket exemption for any sector or role”, only applying to named individuals. Letters will be sent to those who are eligible.

So when do you have to isolate under the current rules - and what happens if you are "pinged"?

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You are required to isolate for 10 days if any of the following apply:

  • You have Covid symptoms: The government advises: "Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started and the next 10 full days." Other people in your household will also need to self-isolate for 10 days.

    You can get a free NHS test, and so can other members of your household. If your test is negative, you are not required to carry on isolating but "may wish to do so if you still feel unwell and have symptoms similar to Covid-19." If the result is negative, other members of your household don't have to carry on self-isolating.
  • You receive a positive test result: Anyone who lives with you must also self-isolate for 10 days.
  • You are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate:  This is not the same as being "pinged." The alert will usually come by text, email or phone call, but you may also be contacted by a call handler. 
    You will be told to begin self-isolation for 10 days from your last contact with the person who has tested positive. Others in your household do not need to self isolate if you do not have symptoms, but are advised to take extra care to avoid spreading the virus.

    If you do not self isolate after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace you could be fined  £1,000. You can get a test if you develop symptoms.
  • You are contacted by a school and told you have been in contact with a positive case: From August 16, the rules are set to change, as under-18s won't have to self-isolate if a contact has a positive test, but will instead be able to take a PCR test. More than 2,600 Suffolk students and staff are isolating in the last week of term.

So what happens if you are "pinged"?

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This has been happening to an increasing number of people, with more than 500,000 people across the UK were told to self-isolate in the first week of July.

The optional app alerts users who have been in close contact with a positive coronavirus case. If you are "pinged", you will be asked to isolate for  10 days to help curb the potential spread of infection.

The app has a countdown telling you when you can leave isolation. You can also book a test through the app.

Being alerted via the app is advisory rather than legally enforceable - but it is well-intentioned.

Being  in contact with someone with Covid increases the chances of you contracting it – and socialising with others increases the chance of you passing it on to them.

Returning to the UK from Amber List countries

If you return from an Amber list country, and are not fully vaccinated against Covid, you are legally required to quarantine at home, or in the place where you are staying, for 10 days.

You will also need to take Covid tests on  or before day two and on or after day eight.

If you are fully vaccinated, or under 18, from July 19 onwards, you don't need to quarantine. This does not apply to people travelling back from France, though, who will need to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated.  

If you return from a country which is currently on the Red List, you will have to quarantine in a  managed hotel.

For full details on self isolation requirements, visit Gov.UK

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