Last reviewed 18 January 2022

New rules have been introduced which say people with Covid-19 in England can end their self-isolation after five full days, as long as they test negative on day five and day six and do not have a temperature.

Introduced from 17 January, the new advice says individuals who are still positive on their rapid lateral flow tests must stay in isolation until they have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days to reduce the chance of still being infectious.

The first test must be taken no earlier than day five of the self-isolation period and the second must be taken the following day. If an individual is positive on day five, then a negative test is required on day six and day seven to release from isolation.

Advice says it is essential that the two negative rapid lateral flow tests taken on consecutive days are reported before individuals return to their job or education, if leaving self-isolation earlier than the full 10-day period.

People who leave self-isolation on or after day six are strongly advised to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, work from home if they can do so and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said these two tests are critical to the “balanced and proportionate plans” and urged everyone to take advantage of the testing capacity to restore more freedom to the country, whilst keeping everyone safe.

NHS Confederation Chief Executive Matthew Taylor said: “This is a pragmatic move which leaders will welcome if it can mean more health and care workers who are well enough can return to the frontline, providing it does not significantly add to the risk of the virus spreading.”

Covid-19: Management of Staff and Exposed Patients or Residents in Health and Social Care Settings also updated its advice on ending isolation for health and care staff who develop Covid-19 symptoms or who have tested positive on a lateral flow device (LFD) test or PCR test, to say they too can now end their isolation on the sixth day, provided they have two consecutive negative LFD tests. The guidance for staff who are contacts of a case has not changed.

Advice on ending isolation for patients who are contacts of Covid-19 cases and who are remaining in hospital also changed, as they can end self-isolation after 10 days subject to a clinical risk assessment.