Test-and-trace isolation rules for double-jabbed people who come into contact with a positive case will be dropped by the government from 16 August, Sajid Javid has announced in an overhaul of the system.
In an update to MPs, the recently appointed health secretary said adults who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will soon be exempt from quarantining at home for up to 10 days.
He said the government would take the “risk-based approach” from mid-August, and that “anyone who is a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been fully vaccinated”.
However, Mr Javid said those who are notified by contact tracers after coming into contact with a positive case will be “advised” to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test “as soon as possible” to provide certainty.
The rules will also apply to under-18s, who are not currently advised to get the vaccine, from 16 August, Mr Javid announced.
And he insisted: “Anyone who tests positive will have to self-isolate whether they have had the jab or not.”
His remarks came after Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s intention to remove the remaining domestic restrictions from 19 July, and revealed he was looking at a “move to a different regime” for those who have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
However, with a projected 50,000 daily Covid cases by 19 July, and possibly more than 100,000 later in the summer after restrictions ease, significant numbers of people across the country may still have to self-isolate before the new rules are introduced on 16 August.
Under the existing rules, if a person is pinged by the NHS app, or called by contact tracers after coming into contact with a positive case, they must isolate at home for a period of up to 10 days.
Addressing MPs, Mr Javid said self-isolation had played a “critical role” in curbing the spread of the virus, but stressed the government was “fully aware of how difficult” it had been.
Mr Javid made clear that if an individual gets a second dose just before or just after 16 August, they will be required to wait two weeks, after which the second jab takes effect, for the new rules to apply.
He added: “This new approach means we can manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic while maintaining the freedoms that are so important to us all.”
Addressing the situation for younger people, the cabinet minister said: “We are not currently offering the vaccine to most people under the age of 18, so we thought carefully how we could make sure that young people get the right experiences that are so important to their development while at the same time keeping them safe from this deadly virus.
“In line with the approach for adults, anyone under the age of 18 who is in contact with a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate. Instead they will be given advice on whether to get tested, dependent on their age, and will need to self-isolate only if they test positive.”
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