Some fully vaccinated frontline NHS staff in England are to be allowed to carry on working if exposed to someone with Covid, the government has said, amid concerns over employee shortages.
Workers, including those in social care, will be exempted in “exceptional circumstances” where absences could lead to a “significant risk of harm”.
They will have to provide a negative PCR test, and take daily rapid tests.
It comes amid a surge in cases and a rise in people told to self-isolate.
The Department of Health and Social Care says the measure is being introduced to “alleviate pressure on NHS and social care services”.
The exemption will apply to both staff who have been contacted as a close contact of a case of by NHS Test and Trace and those advised to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app.
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.”
Staff members who continue to work will have to present a negative PCR test result and daily negative lateral flow tests.
The qualifying criteria will be determined on a case-by-case basis following a risk assessment, the government said.
Dr Jenny Harries, UK Health Security Agency chief executive, said guidance had been issued to NHS and social care settings for situations “where there is a significant risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence or a critical service cannot run”.
More than 500,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were sent by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the first week of July, with supermarkets among the businesses saying they may have to cut opening hours or shut shops due to a lack of staff.
Those “pinged” by the app are advised to self-isolate for 10 days, but those contacted by NHS Test and Trace in England via text, email or phone can be fined if they do not self-isolate.
The announcement comes as most legal restrictions on social contact are being lifted in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are self-isolating after having contact with Mr Javid, who announced on Saturday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
The UK recorded a further 48,161 cases and 25 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test on Sunday.
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