Covid: Who has to self-isolate, which workers are exempt and what if I'm fully vaccinated?

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Some critical workers won't have to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Employers have said they are struggling because of the number of employees isolating.

Which workers won't need to self-isolate?

Employers providing critical services can request an exemption for named employees who are fully vaccinated.

The areas are:

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines and medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Essential defence outputs
  • Local government

Supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt whatever their vaccination status. Workers can do daily testing instead.

This is being extended to police, firefighters, Border Force staff, transport and freight workers, plus those working in prisons, waste, defence, veterinary medicine, energy, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, chemicals, communications, water, space and fish industries.

In total, 2,000 test sites will be opened, with employers and workers contacted by NHS Test and Trace about what they should do.

Frontline health and care staff who are fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact of someone with Covid have a separate system. It allows some to go to work, subject to strict testing rules.

The exemptions end on 16 August, when all fully vaccinated people are exempt.

Scotland has launched a similar system, covering workers in sectors such as health and social care.

If you develop symptoms and test positive, you must isolate regardless of who your employer is.

When do I need to self-isolate?

Everyone else must self-isolate for 10 days if:

How many people have been asked to self-isolate?

If you are "pinged" by the NHS Covid app you're advised - but not legally obliged - to self-isolate.

In England 607,486 alerts were sent to users between 8 and 15 July, with a further 11,417 in Wales.

I'm fully vaccinated, do I need to self-isolate?

Yes, for now you do.

However, from 16 August in England, people who have been fully vaccinated for more than two weeks will no longer have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive.

Instead, you will be asked if you are fully vaccinated. If so, you will be advised to take one PCR test to make sure you haven't been infected.

If you test positive, you will still need to self-isolate, just like anyone else.

Similar rules are due to come into force in Scotland from 9 August - and in Wales from 7 August.

What self-isolation rules are changing for children?

From 16 August in England, under-18s will no longer have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive.

Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test and self-isolate only if it is positive, or they develop symptoms.

It's hoped this will mean fewer children are off school.

A similar change is expected in Scotland on 9 August.

How have travel rules changed?

All adults fully vaccinated by the NHS (and under-18s) no longer have to self-isolate after returning from an amber list country - unless they arrive from France.

Vaccinated passengers need to prove their status via the NHS Covid Pass in England or equivalent schemes.

What does self-isolation mean?

You should order online groceries, or ask friends or family to help.

No-one from outside your household should come inside, unless to deliver essential care.

If you test positive and feel fine, but subsequently develop symptoms, you must restart your 10-day isolation.

If you have symptoms or have tested positive, you should:

  • Keep your distance from other members of your household
  • Leave windows open to improve ventilation
  • If possible, sleep and eat in a different room, and use a separate bathroom
  • If you share a bathroom, use it after everyone else and clean it thoroughly

Will I be paid if I have to self-isolate?

A £500 grant is available in England to people on low incomes who have to self-isolate. This includes parents who can't work because their child has to self-isolate. It is a single payment to cover 10 days' isolation.

In Scotland people can apply for the Self-Isolation Support Grant, worth £500. There is a similar scheme in Wales. In Northern Ireland, a discretionary payment is available.

You may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, which is worth £96.35 a week. Employers with a sick pay scheme will pay more.

How are the rules enforced?

Anyone who does not self-isolate could be fined. In England, fines start at £1,000 rising to £10,000.

However, there have been concerns about how many people follow the rules. Some studies have suggested fewer than 20% do so.