Getting to grips with . . .

The new Covid self-isolation rules explained

Double-jabbed and under-18s no longer need to isolate if they are close contacts of Covid case

Covid isolation rules in England are changing from today, with people who are fully vaccinated no longer required to quarantine if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

The shift in rules, which was announced last month as part of step four of the government’s Covid-19 roadmap, has been hailed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid as “another step back towards normality”.

In recent weeks, the so-called “pingdemic” has seen people obliged to self-isolate if they had contact with someone who had tested positive. At its peak in July, the number of self-isolation alerts sent in England and Wales in a week was nearly 700,000.

From today, instead of self-isolating, those who are double jabbed or aged under 18 identified as close contacts of positive Covid cases are advised instead to get a free PCR test as soon as possible. You can order a PCR home test online or by calling 119, or you can go to a test site.

The development has been broadly welcomed. “The pingdemic is FINALLY over,” cheers the Daily Mail as it hails “one of the biggest steps the country has taken on the road back to normality”.

Metro says the move means we no longer need to be “scared of hearing that fateful ping”, leading “many to breathe a sigh of relief as the UK moves ever closer to a semblance of normality”.

However, one expert has called for caution. Professor Stephen Reicher, of St Andrews University in Scotland, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “one of the major reasons” why cases didn’t rocket after the so-called Freedom Day of 19 July was that “people remained cautious, people remained careful, so I have a good amount of faith in the good sense and the caution of the public”.

In a separate interview with Sky News, Reicher called for more government support for those who still have to isolate.

He said: “If you now make it a choice to people as to whether to take a test and therefore to have to self isolate if you’re positive, people aren’t going to take that test if they can’t afford to be positive.

“We need to give people the support so that they can make the right choices to keep themselves safe and keep others safe.”

Quoted on the government website, UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: “It is important that close contacts continue to come forward for a PCR test, in order to detect the virus and variants of concern.”

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