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NEWS: Self-isolation in England to be reduced to 5 full days

Yesterday the Government confirmed that people in England who test positive for coronavirus will be able to end their self-isolation period after 5 full days (i.e. on day 6) if they test negative via a lateral flow device (LFD) test on days 5 and 6. This change comes into force from Monday 17 January.  

People who still test positive via LFD must stay in isolation until they have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days. People ending isolation early can only do so as long as they are medically fit and no longer have a high temperature.  

Who is affected by this change? 

This guidance applies to all adults and children, regardless of vaccination status. Anyone who is unable to take LFD tests must complete the full 10-day isolation period.  

People working in education settings who end their isolation early should continue to take LFD tests up until day 10 to ensure that these are still negative. If one of these tests is positive, you should return to isolation and test again in 24 hours.   

Children under 5 are not usually advised to take LFD tests, but parents/carers can choose to test their early years child via LFD in order to return to the setting on day 6, if they test negative via LFD on days 5 and 6. If the parent does not wish for their child who has tested positive to have an LFD test, then the child should continue to isolate until day 10 

Still testing positive at day 10 

We have heard from PACEY members worried that they are still testing positive via LFDs on day 10. The Government advice is that you are unlikely to be infectious 10 full days from your positive LFD and you can stop isolating as long as you no longer have a high temperature and you feel well enough (note that the cough and loss of taste/smell can last for several weeks). If you are still concerned, you may choose to keep following isolation advice until 14 days after the start of your isolation.   

Example scenarios 

We have outlined some example scenarios below to help you understand this change 

Positive coronavirus cases 

  • LFDs negative on day 5 and 6: can end isolation after the day 6 test (i.e. return to / reopen setting on day 6)  
  • LFDs positive on day 5 and negative on days 6 and 7: can end isolation after the day 7 test (i.e. return to / reopen setting on day 7) 
  • LFDs still positive at day 10: can end isolation and reopen/return to setting on day 11 (as long as they are medically fit to do so) 

Close contacts 

The guidance for people notified by Test and Trace that they are a close contact of a positive case has not changed:  

  • Unvaccinated adults identified as a close contact: isolate for 10 full days following the Stay at Home guidance  
  • Fully vaccinated adults and anyone aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months identified as a close contact: instructed to take daily LFD tests but not required to isolate. 
  • Children aged under 5 are not required to take LFDs if identified as a close contact, but will be advised to take a PCR if the contact is their household member. They can attend their education setting whilst waiting for this PCR result.  


Note that this is government guidance, and some PACEY members may choose to keep their own policies in place regarding self-isolation periods and returning to the setting. Remember it is your setting and you can put in place additional arrangements if you feel it is necessary to ensure the safety of everyone in your setting, however you will need to consider the implications on contracts and charging. If you need further support, PACEY members can access the free legal helpline as part of their membership.  

Further resources 

As always, please make sure you take a look at all the resources in our Coronavirus Spotlight which we update regularly in line with changing Government advice. This contains our FAQs, risk assessments, posters, scenario chart and more.