Self-isolation exemption removed for health and care workers returning from high-risk countries

Health professionals, including optometrists, will need to self-isolate for 14 days when returning from a country that does not have a travel corridor with the UK

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Pexels/Anna Shvets

Health and care professionals, including optometrists, returning to the UK from countries deemed “high-risk” will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

This follows a decision made by the Government to remove a measure that had previously exempted health professionals from the requirements.

The exemption was originally put in place at the beginning of June to ensure that professionals travelling back to England could return to providing essential healthcare, the Government explained, “helping to strengthen the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

As travel routes have started to reopen and more people begin to holiday abroad, the Government has removed the exemption for health and care workers, suggesting this was done to “minimise the risk of onward chains of transmission that might infect the wider workforce.”

The new decision will mean that, from 31 July, all registered health and care professionals “must lawfully self-isolate” when returning to England from a country considered to be high-risk.

Sharing the new rules, the AOP confirmed that it would be providing guidance for members.

Professionals returning from a country which has a travel corridor to the UK, and so is exempt from the self-isolation measures, will not be required to self-isolate on return.

Recently, both Spain and Luxembourg have been removed from the list of travel corridors due to changes in the “level and pace” of confirmed cases of coronavirus. Travellers returning from those countries will now need to self-isolate once back in the UK.

Self-isolation period extended for those with COVID-19 symptoms

The Government has also extended the self-isolation period for individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or with a positive test result to 10 days.

The decision comes as limited, but strengthening evidence suggests that those mildly ill and recovering from COVID-19, have a “low but real’” possibility of infectiousness between seven and nine days after the onset of the illness.

In statement on the extension, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers wrote that, when considering how to best target interventions to reduce the risk to the public and with “widespread” testing available as well as the relaxing of some lockdown restrictions, they believe, “it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period.”

“This will help provide additional protection to others in the community. This is particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission,” the medical officers concluded.