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Practice managers who are close contacts of Omicron cases no longer need to isolate

by Costanza Pearce
17 December 2021

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Fully vaccinated practice staff no longer need to isolate for 10 days if they are a close contact of an Omicron Covid case, the Government has said.

The requirement has been replaced with a negative PCR and then daily LFT antigen tests for ten days – with isolation only on testing positive or developing symptoms – for those who are fully vaccinated.

Those who are not fully vaccinated must stay at home and self-isolate.

In an update to its guidance for healthcare professionals yesterday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it had ‘removed’ the self-isolation requirements for ‘contacts of a case infected with the Omicron variant’.

It comes after Management in Practice’s sister publication, Pulse, revealed that the guidance was stricter for GPs and practice staff than for the general public, following the relaxation of the same measure for the public earlier this week.

Since 30 November, GPs and practice staff had been required to self-isolate for 10 days if they were a close contact of a ‘suspected or confirmed’ Omicron Covid case – although they are not considered a close contact if wearing PPE correctly.

This had been in line with rules for the public but when public guidance was updated to relax the requirement, UKHSA told Pulse that this did not apply to GPs and other health and care staff.

However, a spokesperson said at the time that the guidance is kept under constant review.

Updating its guidance yesterday, UKHSA said: ‘Self-isolation requirements [have been] removed for contacts of a case infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.’

Instead of isolating, fully vaccinated healthcare workers must take a negative PCR and then daily LFT antigen tests for ten days – isolating only if they test positive or develop symptoms – it said.

DHSC guidance for the public requires the same of the public, but only lateral flow tests and for seven days.

It comes as the Government has announced that it will ‘double’ capacity for Covid testing after days of problems.

UKHSA guidance for healthcare workers including GPs and practice staff

‘Staff members notified that they are a contact of a Covid-19 case are not required to self-isolate if they are fully vaccinated. 

‘[However,] they should inform their line manager or employer immediately if they are required to work in the 10 days following their last contact with a Covid-19 case.’

They must ‘immediately’ arrange to have a PCR and test negative before returning to work, then take daily LFT antigen tests for 10 days ‘following their last contact with the case, even on days they are not at work’.

Those who have had a Covid infection in the past 90 days ‘should not have a PCR test and should only undertake daily LFD antigen tests’.

If they develop Covid symptoms or have a positive LFD result during this period, they should stay at home or return home and arrange to have a PCR test ‘as soon as possible’.

‘If any of the above cannot be met, the staff member should not come to work and should follow the stay at home guidance for the full 10-day period.’

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated healthcare workers identified as a contact of a case must self-isolate unless exempt due to being under 18, medically unable to be vaccinated or part of a Covid vaccine clinical trial. 

Those who are unvaccinated and exempt from self-isolation in the community ‘should not attend work or should be redeployed for the period of time they would be required to self-isolate’.

If they develop symptoms of Covid-19 during this period, they should stay at home or return home and arrange to have a PCR test ‘as soon as possible’.

A version of this story first appeared on Pulse.