Frontline health and social care workers in England may be able to carry on working even if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, the government said on Monday as minister seek to ease pressure on the health service caused by rising infections.
Cases of COVID-19 are surging in Britain, causing hundreds of thousands of workers to be told they need to spend 10 days at home because they have been identified as a close contact of someone with the disease.
That has caused staff shortages in schools, businesses and the healthcare system.
To ease the burden on the healthcare system, where the rise in cases is also causing increased workload, the government announced an exemption for fully-vaccinated staff in exceptional circumstances.
The new rules will apply to staff whose absence would cause a significant risk of harm. Those considered eligible will need to test negative for the virus and take daily tests throughout the period they would have been required to isolate for.
"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," said health minister Sajid Javid, who is himself in isolation after testing positive on Saturday.
England is due to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions on Monday to help restart the economy, but has warned that while vaccines have reduced death and hospitalisation rates, new infections could rise to record levels of 100,000 cases per day.
Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own policy.