Change in self-isolation policy in England must be backed by wider infection control measures, says BMA

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 14 January 2022
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Responding to the announcement that people with Covid-19 can stop self-isolating after 5 full days following two negative lateral flow tests, Dr Penelope Toff, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said:

“All sectors, and in particularly the health service, are experiencing disruption from widespread absences due to the rapid spread of Omicron but healthcare workers do not want to risk infecting colleagues and patients - many of whom are clinically vulnerable. So they can only return to work safely after a shorter period of isolation and two negative lateral flow tests if they have access to high-grade masks, and many are finding that this is still not the case. For other key workers and members of the public, there must be a clear understanding that there is still a risk they can infect others, so they should be cautioned to take particular care to wear masks, keep their distance and ensure there is adequate ventilation indoors.

The Government accepts that, under this new policy, at least 7% of people will still be infectious when they leave isolation, even after two negative lateral flow tests on day 5 and 6, meaning these continued infection control measures among the public and within healthcare settings are absolutely vital.

“Furthermore, easing self-isolation requirements alone will not resolve the sky-high level of infections in the community - which is the main driver of health service staff shortages - and with many people still not fully vaccinated, unvaccinated or with weakened immune systems, there is a significant risk of severe disease among these groups and of further variants of concern arising.

“So people should to be guided by symptoms and continue isolating if they are still unwell, greater steps must to be taken to encourage uptake of vaccination and there needs to be further support for those who feel unable to isolate at all for economic reasons and for the growing numbers pushed into poverty by the pandemic.”

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Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.