The number of days that close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases need to self-isolate for has been reduced from 14 to 10 – including for school pupils and staff.
In a joint statement from the four nations’ chief medical officers on Friday, they said after reviewing the evidence they are “confident that we can reduce the number of days that contacts self-isolate from 14 days to 10 days”.
The move brings the self-isolation period for contacts in line with that which was already in place for those with a positive test or symptoms.
Updated guidance for schools states that those with coronavirus symptoms must continue to be sent home to self-isolate for 10 days and to get a test.
Those who test positive should then continue to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, or 10 days from the date of the positive test if they were asymptomatic.
If someone in a school community has tested positive, schools must “send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, advising them to self-isolate for 10 days from the day after contact with the individual tested positive”.
Close contact means those who have been in face-to-face contact with an infected individual for any length of time within 1 metre, those who have been in extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) and those who have travelled in a small vehicle with an infected person.
If someone with symptoms tests negative, then they should stay home until they are recovered as usual from their illness, but can “safely return thereafter”.
The guidance adds: “The only exception to return following a negative test result is where an individual is separately identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, when they will need to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of that contact.”
If someone who is self-isolating because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive starts to feel unwell, but tests negative, they must still remain in isolate for the remainder of the 10-day period.
“This is because they could still develop coronavirus (COVID-19) within the remaining days,” it adds.
But if the result is positive, they should inform their setting immediately and self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms – which could mean the self-isolation ends before or after the original 10-day isolation period”.
Their household should self-isolate for at least 10 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.