Quarantine requirements for people who have been in contact with a positive Covid-19 case are set to change from 16 August.
It comes amid a so-called “pingdemic”, where a vast number of people are having to isolate after being “pinged” as Covid contacts by the NHS app, fuelled by high numbers of coronavirus infections across the UK.
Data showed more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were told to quarantine by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to 14 July, causing disruption to a number of industries and sectors, including hospitality, health services and travel.
Here’s everything you need to know about the rules changing on 16 August:
What are the current self-isolation rules?
At the moment, you must self-isolate for 10 days if you display any coronavirus symptoms, such as a high fever, a new continuous cough or loss of smell or taste.
You must also quarantine if you test positive for the virus for at least 10 full days, on top of the day your symptoms started or the day you had the test, if you do not have symptoms.
The same rule applies if someone you live with, or who is in your childcare or support bubble, has symptoms or has tested positive.
If the NHS Covid-19 app sends you a notification telling you you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive, you must self-isolate for the period of time advised by contact tracers. This is usually 10 days long and the app will give you a countdown until isolation ends.
How are the rules changing from 16 August?
People who are fully vaccinated, having received their second jab at least 14 days prior, will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case from this date.
Instead, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to take a PCR test. If they test positive for Covid, then they must self-isolate.
People under 18 will also come under the rule change, which means entire school classes will no longer have to stay at home to isolate if just one person tests positive.
However, people who receive a positive coronavirus test result will have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.
What has the health secretary said?
Sajid Javid said the changes mean the country “will soon be able to take a risk-cased approach that recognises the huge benefits that the vaccine provides”.
“This new approach means we can manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic while maintaining the freedoms that are so important to us all,” he added.
Will ministers bring the date forward?
Despite pressure from business leaders and some Conservative MPs to bring forward the relaxation of isolation rules, ministers appear determined to keep to the 16 August date.
Senior ministers are set to discuss other measures to tackle the “pingdemic” in the meantime, including widening the number of jobs eligible for daily testing to allow further exemptions from isolation.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the current quarantine requirements were “an important precautionary measure” and would need to stay in place until more vaccines are administered.