Minister welcomes change to self-isolation rules

Date published: 12 August 2021

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the Executive’s decision to change COVID self-isolation rules for people who are fully vaccinated.

From next Monday, 16 August 2021, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days if someone they have been in close contact with tests positive for COVID-19.

Instead, they should get a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10 day period. People who are not fully vaccinated will still need to self-isolate for the 10 days.

This policy change applies to close contacts only. Anyone who has symptoms, whether vaccinated or not, should immediately book a PCR test. Anyone who has had a positive PCR test should self-isolate for 10 days.

The Health Minister said: “Today’s Executive decision provides yet another example of the benefits of being fully vaccinated.

“Getting both vaccine doses significantly reduces your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the virus.

“The more we can push up Northern Ireland’s vaccination take-up the more we can reduce pressures on our health service in the weeks and months ahead.”

Notes to editors: 


What does fully vaccinated mean?

You are fully vaccinated if it is more than 14 days since you received the second dose of an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine; or if you are taking part in, or have taken part in, an approved MHRA clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine.

When does the 10-day self-isolation period begin?

The 10 day period begins from the onset of symptoms. For those who have no symptoms but test positive, it begins when the PCR test was taken.

What about children who are close contacts of a person who tests positive?

Young people aged 5 to 17 who are not fully vaccinated and are identified as a close contact should self-isolate and book a PCR test. If the PCR test result is negative they can end their self-isolation.

Should they develop symptoms they should self-isolate until they have a result from their PCR test. If the PCR test is positive, they should complete a full 10 days of self-isolation. If the PCR test is negative, they can stop isolating.

Children under the age under the age of 5 who are close contacts will be encouraged but not required to take a PCR test. They will not be expected to self-isolate, unless a PCR comes back positive or they develop symptoms.

Guidance will be developed regarding close contacts in school settings, to ensure children in the same year groups are treated the same.

If I have started self isolation before 16 August do I still need to complete?

In line with the new policy, you can cease self isolating on 16 August – but only if you are fully vaccinated. You should have a PCR test on day 2 (if applicable) and day 8 of the 10 day self isolation period.

What do the rapid lateral flow tests fit into this?

Lateral Flow tests produce results quickly. They have an important role in detecting cases where people have no symptoms. You may have access to these rapid tests through your workplace; or by ordering them free online.

If your lateral flow test is positive, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test.

PCRs are the most accurate tests and must be used to (i) confirm a positive Lateral Flow test; (ii) if you have COVID symptoms; and (iii) if you have been identified as a close contact.

If you are fully vaccinated, can you forget about COVID precautions?

The COVID-19 vaccines significantly reduce our chances of catching and spreading the virus. Crucially, vaccination cuts our risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 by around 95%.

But they do not make us invincible. No vaccine in history has ever been 100% effective 100% of the time.

So anyone who is fully vaccinated should still take care not to catch or pass on COVID. Keep following public health advice and be aware of key risks – like crowded indoor settings with poor ventilation.

If you are fully vaccinated and a close contact tests positive, you should not visit hospitals or care homes for 10 days. You should also minimize contact for 10 days with individuals known to be at higher risk from COVID-19, eg those who are in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) group.


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