Wednesday 22 May 2024
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Covid: Five day self-isolation period comes in from today – what you need to know

From today, [Monday 17 January] 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.

  • From today, people self-isolating with COVID-19 can end their isolation period after five full days if they test negative on both day five and day six and do not have a temperature
  • Individuals who are still positive on their lateral flow tests must stay in isolation until they have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days
  • This will support essential public services and keep supply chains running over the winter

The decision has been made after careful consideration of modelling from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and will support essential public services and workforces over the winter.

It is crucial people isolating with COVID-19 wait until they have received two negative lateral flow tests on two consecutive 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.

The consecutive negative tests must be reported on before individuals return to their job or education if leaving self-isolation earlier than the full 10 day period.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

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“Following a robust review of the evidence, we have reduced the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.

“This is a balanced and proportionate approach to restore extra freedoms and reduce the pressure on essential public services over the winter.

“It is crucial people only stop self-isolating after two negative tests to ensure you are not infectious.

“Vaccinations remain our best defence against COVID-19, offering significant protection against infection and hospitalisation – and I urge everybody eligible to take up the offer and Get Boosted Now.”

The default self-isolation period continues to be 10 days, and you may only leave self-isolation early if you have taken two LFDs and do not have a temperature in line with guidance.

For example, if an individual is positive on day five, then a negative test is required on both day six and day seven to release from self-isolation. Or if a person is positive on day six, then a negative test is required on days seven and eight, and so on until the end of day 10.

Those 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.

Existing public health measures remain in place, including:

  • staying at home if you feel unwell
  • getting a test if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms
  • wearing a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces
  • working from home if possible
  • maintaining social distancing and regular hand washing
  • taking up the offer of the free COVID-19 vaccine




  • Under the 7-day testing approach, around 6% of people will be infectious when they are released from isolation on day 7 following two consecutive negative LFDs.
  • The new guidance to end self-isolation on day 6 with two consecutive negative lateral flow results, modelling from the UK Health Security Agency shows this figure will rise to around 7%.
  • If you leave isolation on day 6, after 5 full days of isolation, between 20% and 30% of people are still infectious. The percentage of those released whilst infectious is reduced to around 7% if people have two consecutive negative tests and then leave isolation from day 6.
  • The self-isolation period was previously reduced from ending on day 10 to day 7, with a negative LFD result taken 24 hours apart on day 6 and 7 on 22 December 2021.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 you must self-isolate, it is the law. The law states that you must self-isolate for 10 days, however this change enables people who are not infectious, proven via two negative tests over two days, which can start from day 5, to leave isolation on day 6.
  • If individuals test positive during their isolation period it does not restart the clock for the 10 day isolation period. Day 0 of the isolation period is when you first show symptoms or, if asymptomatic, the day you took your test.
  • The rules for contacts have not changed. Fully vaccinated individuals who are identified as contacts of someone with COVID-19 should take daily LFDs for 7 days but are not legally required to self-isolate. Unvaccinated contacts are legally required to self-isolate for the full 10 day period.

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