Covid-19 cases are rising but can you go to work or school with the virus or should you isolate?
Covid cases are rising – with hospital admissions also on the increase across most parts of England.
But with no legal obligation to test and no isolation periods any longer enforceable by law what are the latest government guidelines for those who know they are positive?
While still firmly below the numbers seen last winter, the number of people understood to be contracting Covid-19 is on the up as officials watch the progression of a possible autumn wave.
From the limited number of tests carried out and officially logged, latest figures point to a rise in cases of almost 30% while Covid-19 hospital admissions have also crept up a quarter in the last seven days.
Case numbers are said to have been steadily rising since July, encouraged by poor summer weather, waning immunity and possibly - suggest experts – major social events like the arrival of the Barbie movie that encouraged large groups to spend prolonged time together indoors.
The start of the new school term in September is also understood to have contributed to the increase – as hundreds of thousands of pupils returned to their classrooms a month ago.
Many schools across England are now reporting rising illness among both students and staff - with some setttings asking parents to return to following government guidelines when they’re aware of positive cases among their offspring.
While a ‘rapid spike’ of covid cases at Uppingham Community College in Rutland forced its partial closure at the end of September and a return to home learning for some year groups after 17 teachers were among those to have tested positive.
Rising numbers has also prompted some hospital departments, walk-in clinics and GP surgeries to reintroduce face masks for patients and visitors as part of efforts to limit the spread.
Treating and tracking the virus
Amid fears that a new variant – BA.2.86 – may set-off a rise in infections this winter, the roll-out of the booster vaccine campaign has been brought forward by a month.
Covid-19 and influenza jabs are now being offered to those deemed most at risk as part of efforts to prevent serious illness among the most vulnerable and reduce pressure on an already struggling NHS.
A new study to monitor Covid-19 infections will also be launched in November – with the UK Health Security Agency and Office for National Statistics expected to track as many as 32,000 lateral flow tests a week in order to keep across any potential changes in the virus over the winter months.
Do you have to test?
You are no longer required to do a Covid-19 lateral flow test if you have symptoms of the virus.
However, many people still continue to test themselves - for example to protect more vulnerable friends and relatives – through rapid home test kits which are available to buy from pharmacies, shops and supermarkets.
Health officials, however, are asking people who are unwell with any respiratory-type infection to, where possible, be cautious and remain at home and away from others until they feel better.
Should I stay home if I know I’m positive?
People over the age of 18, who know they have coronavirus because they’ve received a positive test, are still asked to follow the current government guidelines
This means remaining at home, and avoiding contact with other people, for five days.
If after the fifth day, adults feel fit and well, then the advice is that they can return to normal activities and to their place of work.
Can my child go to school with Covid-19?
With no obligation to test, many pupils may not know that the cold-like symptoms they have are Covid-19.
And there are also no longer specific isolation and infection-control rules for pupils that school leaders must follow.
Students who know they are positive, because they’ve taken and received a positive Covid-19 test, are still being asked to abide by current coronavirus guidelines.
If a child tests positive for Covid-19 they should not go to school for a small number of days, requests the guidance.
Children and young people, say officials, tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults but that a short period of isolation is still recommended.
Anyone under the age of 18, who has tested positive, is asked to ‘try to stay at home’ and avoid contact with others for three days after the test was taken.
If after three days, the child has no temperature and feels fit and well, they can then return to school.