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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

COVID | Changes to rules means you could come out of self-isolation sooner

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has agreed a new approach to self-isolation, which was implemented yesterday, Friday 31 December.

Based on the latest research from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which reflects on evidence of how long cases shed the virus and can infect others, and the ability of lateral flow tests to detect when people are infectious, the changes mean that if you have tested positive for Covid-19, you may be able reduce your period of self isolation from ten day to seven.


for those who have tested positive

You will now be able to end isolation from day seven on, instead of ten, provided you have two negative lateral flow test (LFT) results taken 24 hours apart.

You can take the first LFT from day six of your isolation period. The second should be taken the following day at least 24 hours later.

If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result.


If either your day six or seven test are positive you can test again the following day. You should only end your self-isolation after you have had two consecutive negative LFD tests which should be taken at least 24 hours apart.

You should stop testing after you have had two consecutive negative test results.

You can end self-isolation as long as you do not still have a high temperature. If you still have a high temperature, you need to continue to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours.


If you leave self-isolation on or after day seven following two negative lateral flow results, you are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces and to minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.


UK Health Security Agency modelling suggests that a 7-day self-isolation period, when combined with 2 consecutive negative LFD tests starting on day 6 and taken 24 hours apart, has nearly the same effect as a 10-day self-isolation period without LFD testing.

After 10 days self-isolation, 5% of people will still be infectious. Ending self-isolation after 7 days and two negative LFD tests results in a similar level of protection. The two negative test results are critical to safely supporting the end of self-isolation: if self-isolation ended on day 7 without testing, modelling suggests that 16% of people would still be infectious.

This revised guidance supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus. The new policy means that most people with COVID-19 will not have to self-isolate for as long a period.


Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Director of Contact Tracing Service at the PHA said:

“This means those infected with COVID-19 in Northern Ireland can stop self-isolating up to three days early if they test negative on two consecutive days.

“Those who leave self-isolation on or after day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.”

Dr Mitchell encouraged people to keep following the essential steps to help avoid getting COVID-19 and, if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, to isolate immediately, book a PCR test and continue to isolate while waiting on the result.

She also reminded people about the protection vaccination provides and said:

“The vaccine booster can significantly increase protection against Omicron. If you are eligible, please get your booster and if you haven’t yet had your first or second dose, please don’t delay in getting them.”


The PHA is also urging people to remember the basic steps to help reduce their risk of catching or spreading COVID-19:

  • take a free rapid Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test before attending any social gathering,

  • wear a face covering,

  • practise good hand hygiene,

  • Work from home,

  • limit your contacts, and

  • keep rooms well-ventilated or meet outdoors when possible.


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