The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid has announced that from Monday 17 January 2022 at 12:01am, the self- isolation period for COVID positive individuals, will be reduced from 7 to 5 days.
Similar to the changes in self-isolation rules made back in December 2021, those infected with COVID-19 in England can stop self-isolating from Monday 17th January, providing they have negative lateral flow tests on days 5 and 6 of isolation.
The change comes, after ministers considered ways to reduce staffing pressures in some sectors, including the NHS, educational settings, and hospitality. A collection of Data from the UK Health Security Agency suggests two-thirds of people are no longer infectious 5 days after testing positive for COVID.
Although the new rules come with a sigh of relief for many businesses, as there is currently a huge number of people isolating for no reason, causing great disruption, there is the potential for more spread of the virus.
Those leaving self-isolation on or after day 7 should limit close contact with others in confined or poorly ventilated spaces, work from home and limit contact with anyone who is a higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19.
Those who have not had two doses of the vaccine still have to isolate for 10 days if they test positive or are a close contact of someone who has the virus.
New Government plan: No PCR required following a positive lateral flow test
Over recent weeks, the country has seen unprecedented COVID case levels. Due to this increase, the supply of lateral flows and PCR tests have outreached demand and resulted in longer waiting time for test results, meaning individuals to self-isolate and therefore maybe unable to attend work (if they cannot work from home).
Currently, individuals with a positive lateral flow test with no symptoms need a PCR test to confirm their results, and this can take days not only for the PCR test to arrive and then the waiting period for the results, but some individuals may decide not to isolate whilst pending the result.
From Tuesday 11 January 2022, individuals in England no longer need to take a PCR test if they test positive with the lateral flow test. These changes came into effect in Northern Ireland on the 5 January, and in Scotland and Wales 6 January.
Under the new plan, individuals who receive a positive lateral flow test should report their results on GOV.UK as normal and must self-isolate immediately but are not required to take a follow-up PCR test. After reporting a positive lateral flow test, NHS Test and Trace will contact the individual so that their contacts can be traced.
ET Case in the News
Employee loses discrimination claim for fear of catching COVID and refusing to attend work.
A tribunal judge has thrown out a discrimination case launched by a woman who refused to go to work at the height of the pandemic (July 2020).
The woman, who has not been identified in the case (and neither has the employer), refused to go to work from July 31, 2020, just as the UK was emerging from the first national lockdown, according to the published judgement. At that point in July 2020 schools had returned and pubs, restaurants and hairdressers had re- opened although Covid case numbers had started to increase again.
Upon her refusal to attend work, her employer refused to pay her wages and the employee launched a discrimination case, arguing her fear of Covid-19 amounted to a philosophical belief protected by law.
However, Judge Mark Leach said in his December 13 ruling that the claimant’s fear of catching Covid-19 ‘does not amount to a philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act 2010.
The woman, identified only as ‘X’, appeared in person on 26 November 2021 at a hearing held at employment tribunal court Parsonage Gardens in Manchester.
The employer, identified only as ‘Y’, had asked for the hearing to take place remotely due to the rise in Covid cases but X objected at the prospect of discussing ‘sensitive personal information’ over a connection she feared would not be secure.
Her objections were upheld by the judge and both parties attended in person.
The Equalities Act prohibits discrimination against a number of specified ‘protected characteristics’, among them religious or philosophical beliefs.
But those beliefs must be genuinely held, not merely an opinion, concern a ‘weighty and substantial aspect of human life’, be cogent, serious, ‘worthy of respect in a democratic society and compatible with the rights of others.
In a statement to her employment tribunal, the employee wrote: “My belief is a philosophical belief, and it is genuinely held by myself. I believe it is important and forms a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
“Placing limitations on a person’s right to manifest their religion or belief may amount to unlawful discrimination; this would usually amount to indirect discrimination.
“On 31 July 2020, I took the decision not to return to the workplace on the grounds of health and safety. I had reasonable and justifiable health and safety concerns about the workplace surrounding Covid-19, and I was also very worried about the increasing spread of the virus.
“I had a genuine fear of getting the virus myself, and a fear of passing it on to my partner (who is at high risk of getting seriously unwell from Covid-19).
“I made a protected disclosure in good faith and asserted my statutory employment rights about a danger to the health and safety of myself and others, which I reasonably believed to be serious and imminent.
“(My boss) told me that he would not be paying me, and he said, ‘I do not accept you had a reasonable belief that returning to work would put you or your husband in serious and imminent danger’.
“I then had my wages withheld and I suffered financial detriment.
“I claim this was discrimination on the grounds of this belief in regard to coronavirus and the danger from it to public health. This was at the time of the start of the second wave of Covid-19 and the huge increase in cases of the virus throughout the country.”
Pressed by Judge Leach what precisely the belief was, she replied: “A fear of catching Covid-19 and a need to protect myself and others.”
Judge Leach said: “It is not disputed for the purposes of determining this preliminary issue, that the claimant has a genuine concern or fear that she might catch Covid-19 and that she needs to take steps to protect herself and others.”
But he ruled it did not amount to a belief in the eyes of the law.
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