On 16 August 2021, the Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread was updated to reflect the changes to the self-isolation rules. The updated guidance provides that individuals informed by NHS Test and Trace that they are a contact of someone who has tested positive will not need to self-isolate where they are:
- Fully vaccinated.
- Below the age of 18 and six months.
- Have taken part in, or are currently taking part in, an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial.
- Not able to be vaccinated for medical reasons.
What if an individual is a close contact but has not been contacted by NHS Test and Trace?
It is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you are identified as a contact and told to self-isolate by Test and Trace because you are not exempt. Failure to self-isolate for the full time-period can result in a fine, starting from £1,000.
There is no legal requirement on an individual to self-isolate unless they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person last updated on 24th September 2021 says:-
I think I have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but I have not been notified and advised to self-isolate. What should I do?
Contacts who need to self-isolate will usually be notified and advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace, including by the NHS COVID-19 app. If you believe that you are a contact of someone with COVID-19 but have not yet been notified by NHS Test and Trace, you should carefully follow the guidance on how to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. In this circumstance you can arrange to take a PCR test, even if you do not have symptoms, because you may be at higher risk of being infected.
If you are concerned that you may have symptoms of COVID-19, or you live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, follow the Stay at Home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19.
An unvaccinated member of staff at school who is a potential close contact of a child that has tested positive but has not been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Is there a requirement to self-isolate?
NHS Test and Trace
We contacted NHS Test and Trace who told us:-
- Onus is on the child’s parent to report close contacts.
- No duty on school as they are no longer contact tracing.
- Child’s parent will have received a questionnaire following positive test result, this is where close contacts are identified.
- Legal requirement to self-isolate only arises when individual is contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
- No legal requirement to self-isolate if not contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
In the example above it will likely be the case that the parent does not know who the child has been in contact with at school.
The member of staff who believes they are a close contact should be encouraged to contact NHS Test and Trace for advice. If they are told to self-isolate this is a legal requirement. If they refuse to contact Test and Trace, then there is no legal requirement for them to self-isolate and they could be required to return to work. We would advise that the individual take a PCR test and regular LFD tests.
What is self-isolation?
Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person says:-
Self-isolation means you must stay at home and not leave the house. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.
Do not go outside even to buy food or other essentials, except in certain specific circumstances. Any exercise must be taken within your home, garden or private outdoor space.
From 16 August, you may not be required to self-isolate if you are notified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, for example if you are fully vaccinated. See the section on contacts who are not required to self-isolate for further information. If you have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, you will still be required to self-isolate.
In some circumstances, the person you had close contact with will be asked by NHS Test and Trace to take a follow-up COVID-19 test. If this second test result is negative it is unlikely that they have COVID-19. If this happens NHS Test and Trace will contact you to let you know that you can stop self-isolating.
You can only stop your self-isolation before 10 full days have been completed if you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to do so. Otherwise, you must continue to self-isolate and follow this guidance.