The time people must spend in isolation for contracting COVID has been reduced to five days in England, as 16 and 17-year-olds have been invited to receive their COVID-19 vaccine booster.
People in England can now leave quarantine after five full days providing they test negative on days five and six.
Ministers reduced the isolation period from seven days to five to help address staff shortages by allowing people to return to work sooner.
The government said research showed between 20% and 30% of people are still infectious by day six, but the percentage of those released while infectious falls to around 7% if they have two consecutive negative tests and then leave isolation from day six.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Following a robust review of the evidence, we have reduced the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.
“This is a balanced and proportionate approach to restore extra freedoms and reduce the pressure on essential public services over the winter.
“It is crucial people only stop self-isolating after two negative tests to ensure you are not infectious.”
The Department of Health said the default self-isolation period remains 10 days and people can only end if early if they receive two negative results on consecutive days, with the earliest being days five and six.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to review Plan B rules on mandatory mask-wearing, working from home and COVID passes on 26 January, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden suggested things are looking good for the rolling back of measures.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme there has been “some very promising data” on infections and hospital admissions from the Omicron variant, which “gives us pause for hope and optimism”.
He said: “It has always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.
“I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens this puts hospitality, wider business, schools and so on under, and I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can.
“The signs are encouraging but, clearly, we will wait to see the data ahead of that final decision.”
It comes as all 16 and 17-year-olds can get their booster jabs from today.
Around 40,000 teenagers will be eligible for their additional dose.
Meanwhile NHS England said boosters will be offered to children aged 12 to 15 who are most at risk from coronavirus from today.
Clinically at-risk children in this age group or those who live with someone who has a weakened immune system are entitled to their booster three months after their second jab, and those who are severely immunosuppressed are eligible for a booster after a third primary dose.
Boosters were previously only recommended for clinically vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds most at risk from COVID.
Also on Monday, Scotland will begin its phased lifting of coronavirus restrictions, allowing large outdoor events without physical distancing or capacity limits.
COVID certification will remain for events where more than 4,000 standing or 10,000 seated people are in attendance, and organisers of events with more than 1,000 attendees will be expected to check a minimum of 50% for certification of vaccination, exemption or negative test.
A person will also need to show they have had a booster to be considered “fully vaccinated” if their last vaccine dose was more than four months ago.