From Tuesday, December 14, anyone in England who is double-jabbed must take a daily rapid test if they are identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Unvaccinated adults are not eligible for this new daily testing policy and they must self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of someone who tests positive.
The Department of Health & Social Care say that the aim is to reduce pressures on people’s everyday lives by replacing the requirement for Omicron contacts to isolate for 10 days.
It also aims to protect the public by identifying asymptomatic cases and stopping the chains of transmission.
If the PCR result comes back positive, contacts must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms.
They do not need to continue taking rapid tests during that 10-day isolation period.
If the PCR result comes back negative, contacts can leave self-isolation but should continue to take rapid tests for the remainder of the seven days.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, hopes that the new policy will help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.
He said: “The Omicron variant is quickly gaining ground in the UK and is expected to become the dominant strain by mid-December.
“We are taking this proportionate and more practical measure to limit the impact on people’s day-to-day lives while helping to reduce the spread of Omicron.
“Vaccines remain our best defence and I urge anyone yet to get a first and second jab to come forward and those eligible for a booster to get boosted as soon as possible.”
New data modelling suggests that, under one scenario, almost twice the number of coronavirus patients could be admitted to hospital compared with last year due to the impact of Omicron.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, has urged people to take up the opportunity to get a Covid vaccine.
She commented: “If you are identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19, taking a rapid daily test – and only needing to isolate if it is positive – will help reduce the spread of the virus and minimise its impact on our everyday lives over the coming weeks and months.
“Rapid tests are freely available in pharmacies and online. Our latest analysis shows that boosters provide the best protection against the Omicron variant, please go forward when you are called.
“If you haven’t had any vaccine, a first and second dose still gives you protection against becoming seriously unwell.
“Don’t worry about stepping forwards now – you will be warmly welcomed by our vaccination staff and I would strongly advise you to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”