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‘Critical workers’ to be exempt from self-isolation if identified as a close contact

Written by on 19/07/2021

A number of “critical workers” will be exempt from self-isolating for work purposes if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, Nadhim Zahawi has said.

Making a statement on coronavirus in the Commons, the vaccines minister said individuals including air traffic controllers and train signallers will still be able to leave their homes and go to work even if identified as a contact of somebody who has COVID-19.

He added that this is a “sensible and pragmatic step” which will be used “sparingly”, with only a limited number of people eligible.

Those not within the critical categories – yet to be unveiled by the government – who come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must still self-isolate for 10 days.

“Self-isolation of positive cases and their close contacts remains one of the most effective tools we have for reducing transmission,” Mr Zahawi told MPs.

“However, we recognise there are some very specific circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harm to public welfare if people in critical roles are unable to go to their work place, like air traffic controllers or train signallers.

“So people in those kind of roles who have received two vaccinations plus two weeks beyond a second vaccine will not need to self-isolate to perform those critical tasks.

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“They will, however, have to continue to self-isolate at all other times.

“The people eligible for this will receive personalised letters setting out the steps they must follow.

“This is a sensible and pragmatic step and one that will be used sparingly and responsibly.”

It comes amid concerns about the number of people being forced to self-isolate by the NHS Coronavirus App.

Recent figures showed more than half a million people in England and Wales were ‘pinged’ by the app in the week up to 7 July, which was an increase of almost 50% compared with the week before.

Earlier on Monday, Downing Street suggested the tracing app would not be fine tuned to make it less sensitive in order to get the number of people isolating down as it fulfils its purpose.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that from 16 August, people who have been fully vaccinated will not have to self-isolate if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS app when they have come into contact with a positive case.

These people will instead be asked to take a PCR test as soon as possible.

But business leaders have expressed fears that over the next month, many more staff will be told to stay at home with businesses forced to close.

 Sky News

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