Cases will now be able to end isolation after seven days instead of ten provided they have negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven, with tests taken 24 hours apart. The first test must be taken no earlier than day six of the self-isolation period. If the lateral flow tests are positive individuals must continue to isolate for the full 10 days.
The Department of Health has agreed the new approach, which reflects latest evidence on how long cases shed the virus and can infect others and the ability of lateral flow tests to detect when people are infectious. It will also support essential public services over the winter, while still limiting the spread of the virus.
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: “The vaccine booster can significantly increase protection against Omicron.”
She added: “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.
These arrangements take effect from 8.00am on December 31, 2021.