What are the Covid self-isolation rules and will they be scrapped?

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People with Covid in Northern Ireland can now stop self-isolating after five full days, if they have have two negative tests.

These rules are also in place in England, where the prime minister has said that there will "soon be a time" when self-isolation is not required.

What are the self-isolation rules in Northern Ireland and England now?

The self-isolation period for anyone who develops symptoms or tests positive for Covid is five full days.

The day symptoms begin - or you test positive - is day zero. The next day is day one of self-isolation.

You can leave self-isolation after five full days if you have two negative LFT results, 24 hours apart.

You can take the first on day five. If it's negative, you can take another test 24 hours later on day six. If this is also negative - and you don't have a temperature - you can immediately end isolation.

The rules apply whether or not you are vaccinated.

Could self-isolation be scrapped in England?

The current self-isolation regulations run out on 24 March.

The prime minister has told MPs he does not expect to renew the rules and said they could end sooner - if Covid data allows.

He said that "as Covid becomes endemic" (in other words, constantly present) the government will "replace legal requirements with advice and guidance urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others".

This would be similar to advice for other infectious diseases such as flu.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid also said he was "optimistic" the government would shortly be able to "remove all restrictions around Covid".

It is not clear whether the rest of the UK would follow suit.

What are the self-isolation rules for people with Covid in the rest of the UK?

In Scotland and Wales you must self-isolate for at least seven days as soon as symptoms appear.

People without symptoms who have a positive LFT result should also self-isolate immediately. They don't need to take a PCR test, although clinically vulnerable people in Wales are advised to do so.

You can end self-isolation after two negative LFT results, 24 hours apart - the first no earlier than day six. If you don't have a temperature, you can stop self-isolating after the second negative test, on day seven.

If the day six test is positive, you can take two further tests on subsequent days.

The guidance applies whatever your vaccination status.

Anyone leaving self-isolation is "strongly advised" to limit close contact with people in crowded or poorly-ventilated spaces.

They should work from home and minimise contact with people at higher risk from Covid.

What are the self-isolation rules for contacts of people with Covid?

The rules about self-isolation after contact with someone with Covid are broadly similar across the UK.

If you are fully vaccinated (two doses - three in Scotland), you don't have to self-isolate, but should take daily LFTs for seven days (or until 10 days since your last contact, if this is earlier).

This also applies to under-18s (18 years and four months in Scotland; 18 years and six months in England).

If any of the LFTs are positive, you must self-isolate from the date of the test.

Close contacts of positive cases who are not fully vaccinated still have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

In Scotland, they are advised to take one PCR test and continue isolating even if the result is negative.

In Wales, unvaccinated contacts are advised to take LFTs on days two and eight, even if they have no symptoms.

Anyone who develops Covid symptoms during self-isolation should take a PCR test.

What does self-isolation mean?

Adults shouldn't go to work and children shouldn't go to school.

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

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

If you have symptoms or test 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

People on a low income who are told to isolate may be entitled to some financial help: