Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.
The UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Public Health Advice, Guidance and Expertise (PHAGE) group has presented evidence to the four chief medical officers regarding the duration of self-isolation for COVID-19 cases and the potential to reduce this period with support from repeat testing with lateral flow devices (LFDs).
This advised that a 7-day isolation period alongside two negative LFD test results has nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without LFD testing for people with COVID-19. The new approach reflects latest evidence on how long cases transmit the virus for, and supports essential public services and supply chains over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus.
This advice comes in the context of rapidly rising case numbers and staffing issues that are being felt across essential public services. I have therefore decided, based on public health advice, that the small increased risk of infectious people being released from isolation is balanced against the wider societal benefits from reducing the isolation period and the potential for this policy to increase compliance with isolation.
From 31 December, if a person is currently self-isolating as a positive case or a person tests positive for COVID-19 they must self-isolate for seven days. On day six of isolation, they should take a lateral flow test and another test 24 hours later. If both results are negative, it is likely they are not infectious.
However, if either of the tests taken on day six or seven are positive, the person should remain in isolation until they have had two negative lateral flow tests or day 10 – whichever is sooner. A positive result on either day six or seven indicates the person is likely to still be infectious and therefore at risk of passing on coronavirus to others.
It is essential everyone self-isolates and uses lateral flow tests in the way advised to ensure they protect others from the risk of infection.
You can get lateral flow tests by:
- Collecting testing kits from a pharmacy or a local collection point: Find your nearest pharmacy or collection point and opening times (on nhs.uk).
- Collecting from workplaces or education settings, which have arrangements to provide testing kits for staff and learners.
- Ordering online for home delivery: Order rapid lateral flow home test kits on GOV.UK. You can order one home testing kit (seven tests) at a time. Delivery takes one to two days.
Operational changes to our contact tracing system will be made as soon as possible to ensure that positive cases receive the appropriate advice and guidance, however this will not be immediate as system changes have a lead in time.
The NHS COVID-19 App continues to support our Test Trace Protect system and will be updated with information for app users to alert them to the changes in Wales.
We are considering the implications of these changes for our Self Isolation Support Scheme and we will continue to provide financial and wider support for those who need help to self-isolate, including access to food and pharmacy goods.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.