Update 23 December
From 23 December the self-isolation period for positive Covid-19 cases has been reduced from 10 days to 7 days, where someone receives two negative lateral flow test results on day 6 and day 7 of the self-isolation period. Thereafter they are advised to take greater precautions until day 11 (ie, to limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces, and to wear a face covering if this is unavoidable; to work from home if possible; and to limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19).
Updated guidance is here.
Update 14 December
The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that, from Tuesday 14 December, people who are fully vaccinated and identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 – whether Omicron or not – should take an NHS rapid lateral flow test every day for 7 days and do not need to self-isolate unless they test positive or develop symptoms (in which case they should self-isolate while obtaining a PCR test). During this period they are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces and with anyone who is more vulnerable, and to follow government guidance on wearing a face covering and working from home where possible.
The 10 day self-isolation period still applies to unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases.
Employers remain liable to a fine of up to £10,000 if they knowingly allow an employee to attend the workplace in breach of a legal requirement to self-isolate.
See here for further details.
Update 13 December
The Government’s “Working Safely” guidance has been updated to reflect the guidance to work from home. This notes that individuals who cannot work from home, for example because their role must be completed in-person or requires them to access equipment in the workplace, can and should continue to go into work but should consider taking lateral flow tests regularly to manage their own risk and the risk to others. Employers should also consider whether home working is appropriate for workers facing mental or physical health difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.
The guidance also sets out the self-isolation requirements. Currently, those who are close contacts of individuals testing positive for Covid do not need to self-isolate if they have been double-jabbed (or are medically exempt) and the infection is not the Omicron variant. Close contacts of a person with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant are currently required to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status; this is due to be replaced with daily testing for those who have been vaccinated from a date yet to be specified – further details are promised shortly.
The Prime Minister has just announced that the ‘work from home if you can’ guidance will be reintroduced in England from this coming Monday. Employers will need to communicate any changes to working arrangements prior to the weekend. As yet, there does not appear to be any suggestion that more restrictive ‘working safely’ measures are required for workplaces where staff are unable to work from home, but it would obviously be prudent to review these measures again if staff will need to continue coming into work.
Mandatory masks will be extended to most public venues, including theatres and cinemas, from this Friday 10 December.
From Wednesday 15 December (and subject to parliamentary approval), the NHS Covid pass (for the time being still obtainable with two doses, or a negative lateral flow test) will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and larger venues. As Omicron spreads in the community, daily tests will be introduced instead of self-isolation for contacts.
The press release is available here. This indicates that guidance on these changes will be available on gov.uk in the coming days.