Fully vaccinated frontline NHS staff in England will be permitted to carry on working in “exceptional circumstances” if they are “pinged” by the Covid contact tracing app, the government has announced.
The decision – which also applies to social care workers – comes amid concerns that rising staff absences due to the need to self-isolate is putting unsustainable pressure on services.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the exemption would only apply in cases where the absence of staff could lead to a “significant risk of harm”.
Boris Johnson confirmed the policy change in a briefing on Monday
Staff who are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to quarantine because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus will still need a negative PCR test before they can resume work and then to take daily lateral flow tests.
Decisions on which staff qualify will be made on a case-by-case basis following a risk assessment by the management of the health or social care organisation concerned.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we learn to live with this virus, it’s important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country.
“These new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed.”
Listen to the latest episode of our coronavirus podcast
UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries, said: “With the number of cases continuing to rise, it is imperative that we do everything we can to manage this virus and support our NHS and social care services under the strain of increased demand and sustained pressure.
“We have provided specific guidance to NHS and social care settings for circumstances where there is a significant risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence or a critical service cannot run.”