By “ping”, we mean a notification from the NHS Test and Trace app, which alerts you of the need to self-isolate after a potential contact with Covid.
The Duchess of Cambridge got one on Monday, forcing her to isolate on the day she was due to mark the 73rd anniversary of the NHS with a service at St Paul’s Cathedral and a tea party at Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, half a million school children are said to be isolating in the final weeks of the summer term after many school bubbles have burst.
While we can (hopefully) agree that it’s a necessary evil, it doesn’t stop a surprise quarantine from being annoying. And of course, it poses a real problem for those who can’t work from home and have to contend with the Test and Trace financial support scheme.
But the rules around self-isolation will soon be changing for those who have been double vaccinated. There will also be a new system in schools, to combat ongoing disruptions to in-person education.
“Step by step, jab by jab, we are replacing the temporary protection of the restrictions with the long-term protection of the vaccine so we can restore the freedoms which we cherish and the experiences which mean so much for us all,” health secretary Sajid Javid said of the changes.
“This new approach means that we can manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic while maintaining the freedoms that are so important to us all.”
Here’s what you need to know.
For those who are double jabbed…
Those who have had two coronavirus vaccinations who have come into contact with a coronavirus case will not have to self-isolate for the 10 day isolation period once the change comes into force on August 16. To be considered in this group, the person must have received the second jab 14 days (or more) previously, to ensure the vaccination has taken effect.
Instead of isolating, those who are double vaccinated and aware of a potential contact will be advised to take a PCR test, but that will not be compulsory. Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will have to self-isolate for the usual 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
For pupils in school bubbles…
Current rules state that children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which can be an entire year group at secondary school – tests positive for coronavirus.
Around 640,000 state school pupils – 8.5% of England’s total – did not attend class for Covid-related reasons on July 1, according to Department for Education (DfE) statistics.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now set out plans to scrap the bubble system. He said it will be up to individual schools as to whether they scrap the bubble system before the summer holidays, following the expected move to Step 4 of lockdown after July 19, or wait until the new school year in September.
Either way, from July 19, schools will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing themselves and NHS Test and Trace will instead be used to identify close contacts of positive cases. From August 16, children will only need to self-isolate if they have tested positive for Covid-19.
And for everyone else…
If you’ve only been jabbed once (or not at all) the old self-isolation rules still apply.
If someone you live with tests positive, or you get a notification from the NHS Test and Trace app, your self-isolation period starts the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19, and the next 10 full days.
And if you test positive for Covid yourself, you need to isolate for at least 10 days, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, and for longer if you have a high temperature, a runny nose or sneezing, you’re feeling or being sick or you have diarrhoea. The NHS says you must “only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone”.