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Changes from Monday 16 August 2021

Those who are fully vaccinated (14 days after their final dose) are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated will be advised, to take a PCR test as soon as possible, so that they can have certainty about their condition.

In addition, anyone under the age of 18 who is a close contact of a positive case will no longer need to self-isolate. Instead, they will be given advice about whether to get tested, dependent on their age, and will need to self-isolate only if they test positive. In most cases individuals will be advised to take a PCR test. 

Self-isolation information and questions

What if I haven’t been vaccinated?

If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, you will still need to self-isolate if you are identified as the close contact of a positive case, unless you are under 18.

What is meant by fully vaccinated?

Individuals are fully vaccinated when they are two weeks post-completion of a full course of an authorised vaccine administered in the UK. This is to allow for an antibody response to develop. You need both doses of a two-dose vaccine for maximum protection against COVID-19. You must have been fully vaccinated at the time of the contact with the positive case.

Can’t people still catch COVID after vaccination? Isn’t this a big risk?

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at reducing the risk of transmission and severe illness. Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19 is estimated to be between 78%-80% (after both doses, where it is a two-dose vaccine). Although not everyone will be fully vaccinated from 16 August, the risk of onward transmission in the general population will be significantly reduced.

Should I get a test if I have COVID symptoms but have been vaccinated? Why?

Yes, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, arrange to have a PCR test. You should stay at home while you are waiting for a home test kit, a test site appointment or a test result.

Rapid lateral flow testing is available for free to anybody but is particularly important for those who are not fully vaccinated, those in education, and those in higher-risk settings such as the NHS, social care and prisons.

I am a contact of a positive case. Do I have to self-isolate while waiting for the results of my PCR test?

From 16 August, if you are fully vaccinated or under 18 at the time of contact with a positive case, you will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate. You will instead be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible. You may wish to limit social contact whilst waiting for the results of your PCR test, but you are not required to self-isolate.

If contacts who are fully vaccinated or children are exempt from self-isolation, what is the point of contact tracing/NHSTT?

All positive cases, regardless of age or vaccination status, are contacted for three reasons:

  • To help ensure that they self-isolate and to check whether they need support to do this
  • To determine who they might have infected
  • To establish where and when they might have been infected, so that we can identify potential local outbreaks.

Tracing close contacts allows us to give them appropriate advice on testing and/or self-isolation, depending on their vaccination status and age.

How will people prove that they are fully vaccinated, or will it be on trust?

NHS Test and Trace will check whether you are legally required to self-isolate and will advise you what to do.

Is the PCR test a legal requirement?

No, it will not be a legal requirement, but close contacts of confirmed cases will be strongly encouraged to take a PCR test to help identify positive cases and prevent risk to other people.

What happens if my PCR test comes back positive?

If your PCR test result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days  to avoid spreading the infection to other people. This will continue to be a legal requirement. Those you live with – and any close contacts outside your household – will either be required to self-isolate or advised to get a PCR test, depending on their age and vaccination status.

What is meant by a close contact?

A contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can be a contact any time from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from 2 days before the date their positive test was taken), and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others.

A risk assessment may be undertaken to determine this, but a contact can be:

  • Anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
    • Face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
    • Been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
    • Been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)

A person may also be a close contact if they have travelled in the same vehicle or plane as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. If you have been identified as a contact, you have been assessed as being at risk of developing COVID-19, even if you don’t currently have symptoms. You should follow all the guidance in this document. An interaction through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is not usually considered to be a contact, as long as there has been no other contact such as those in the list above. If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone and should follow this guidance closely.