Fully vaccinated pharmacy team members in England no longer need to isolate for 10 days if they are a close contact of an Omicron Covid case, the Government has confirmed.
The requirement has been replaced with a negative PCR, and then daily LFT antigen tests for 10 days, for those who are fully vaccinated – with isolation only required if testing positive or developing symptoms.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must stay at home and self-isolate.
In an update to its guidance for healthcare professionals last week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it had ‘removed’ the self-isolation requirements for ‘contacts of a case infected with the Omicron variant’.
The Government confirmed to The Pharmacist today (20 December) that community pharmacists are included in the list of healthcare professionals who would no longer have to isolate.
As it stands, members of the public who have come into contact with a suspected Omicron case will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and take a PCR test on days two and eight.
The updated rules could prove to help retain numbers for the pharmacy workforce, after previous rules requiring automatic self-isolation for close contacts of an Covid variants left pharmacy teams reporting significant staff absences.
The changes come amid a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 in the UK, with 82,886 new cases reported on 19 December – the highest daily figure since the pandemic began.
The UK has and accounted for another 12,000 Omicron cases in recent days – taking the current tally to over 37,000.
Meanwhile in Wales, community pharmacists in Wales who come into contact with the variant still have to isolate for 10 days.
In a Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) newsletter, sent to community pharmacists in Wales today (20 December), contractors were warned to ‘urgently review their current processes to try and minimise the risk of team members being identified as ‘contacts’ by test, trace and protect.’
Contractors were advised to be particularly aware of ventilation; correct use of PPE; social Distancing particularly on breaks; car sharing and staff working across more than one location.
It read: ‘There is not a blanket exemption for community pharmacy teams and each situation will be reviewed by TTP teams based on the individual circumstances’.’
Some pharmacists based in Wales have taken to social media to express their concern over the policy.
Much like in England, pharmacists based in Scotland are also exempt from mandatory 10-day isolation.