Business groups and unions have cautiously welcomed the Government’s decision to cut the number of self-isolation days to five.
But some warned that ministers must ensure there is a steady flow of lateral flow tests (LFTs) for the changes to work.
And the Royal College of Nursing called for its members to be exempt and to remain under seven-day isolation rules.
For the new measures to truly have an impact it is important that availability of lateral flow tests remains consistent throughout the countryEmma McClarkin, BBPA
General secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “Health and care workers must be exempt from a reduction of the seven-day self-isolation.
“By the Government’s own estimate, almost a third of individuals are infectious five days after symptoms starting.
“Health and care workers will fall into that group in large numbers and there can be minimal room for error or complacency.
“Current and growing workforce pressures must not drive a reduction in isolation requirements in an unsafe way.
“This change could increase the risk of transmission to other staff and patients. When providing close care, including to those with compromised immune systems, nursing staff must be confident that they are not putting patients at risk.”
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said LFTs must be available.
She said: “Businesses are continuing to tell us they are struggling with high levels of absence due to Covid and will welcome the news it is judged safe to further reduce the isolation period.
“But too many say that staff are also finding it difficult to get the lateral flow tests they need to prove they can return to work.
“This new change will only help if urgent action is taken to ramp up the supply of tests, so employees are not isolating unnecessarily.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said the change is “very helpful” for the pub and brewing sector but echoed the calls for good supply of LFTs.
She added: “The new guidance will go some way to alleviating the pressure on staff numbers that our members have been experiencing throughout the pandemic.
“For the new measures to truly have an impact it is important that availability of lateral flow tests remains consistent throughout the country.”