From today, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, along with anyone they live with, will only need to self-isolate for 10 instead of 14 days following a negative day nine test.
To benefit from the reduced isolation period a COVID-19 test is required on day nine of self-isolation to check for infection. Those who do not wish to have a test on day nine are required to isolate for 21 days. This applies to those who have tested positive for the virus as well as those they live with.
The new ten day period of self-isolation also applies to high risk contacts (HRC) who live in a different household to the person who tests positive. The HRC must continue to isolate but following a negative test result, they can leave the house once a day to exercise.
Anyone who lives with a HRC - but has not been identified as a high risk contact themselves - will be required to self-isolate until the HRC has undergone a test and received a negative result. After the HRC’s negative result other householders can leave isolation.
The changes are retrospective. Anyone who is currently isolating for 14 days because they tested positive for the virus, because they live with someone who has tested positive for the virus, or because they are a high risk contact of someone who has the virus can leave isolation on day 10 if their day nine test is negative.
Those who live with someone who has been identified as a HRC can leave self-isolation if the HRC has received a negative test result.
Chief Minister, Howard Quayle MHK said:
'These changes reflect our new approach of adjusting to living in a world with the virus instead of seeking to eliminate it completely, as increasingly we have a well advanced vaccination programme and a rapid decline in case numbers in the UK.
'As part of this change in approach, we need to avoid lock-down by the back door, ensuring that our response to any COVID cases that emerge is proportionate.
'By reducing the levels of isolation, combined with an exit test, and by reducing the need for household members of high risk contacts to isolate for the full 10 days, we will significantly reduce the direct and indirect impact of isolation on society, the economy and critical services.
'This approach mirrors best practice as laid out by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and is part of a longer term position as we adjust to living in a world with COVID-19.'
The COVID Response Team will be contacting those affected by the change and issuing modified direction notices.
The changes to isolation periods only extend to those who test positive for the virus and those they live with, as well as high risk contacts and those they live with. The isolation period for travellers currently remains at 21 days, subject to testing allowing them to leave on day 14 if they receive a negative test result.
Changes to isolation arrangements for travellers will be set out this week ahead of a move from level 4 to level 3 of the borders framework on Saturday 1 May.