Close contacts to self-isolate for 10 days, or even 6, from 14

The Ministry of Health has announced shorter self-isolation periods for essential workers who come into close contact with people infected with the Omicron variant COVID-19.

New guidelines released Jan. 14 would reduce the self-isolation period from 14 to 10 days for anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient in areas where the Omicron variant is prevalent.

The period will be reduced to six days for essential workers in sectors such as the elderly and childcare as well as those employed in retail outlets selling basic necessities as long as they test negative for COVID- 19.

The shortened period reflects growing concerns that vital social services could be compromised if large numbers of essential workers are forced into self-isolation. The shorter period also takes into account that people infected with the Omicron variant show symptoms around three days later, shorter than for the previous variants.

The six-day self-isolation period for essential workers will only apply to those whose polymerase chain reaction test or antigen tests taken on the sixth day are negative. Those using simpler but less accurate tests will need to test negative on days six and seven of their self-isolation before being allowed to return to work.

The central government has listed sectors it deems vital for the functioning of society, but decisions on essential services will be left to local governments.

Healthcare professionals will continue to be allowed to work as long as their daily test results are negative.

The Ministry of Health has also shortened the recovery period by 14 days for people confirmed with COVID-19 who have not been vaccinated. These people now only have to rest for 10 days, the same period as COVID-19 patients who received injections.

The self-isolation period for Japanese nationals returning from overseas has also been shortened from 14 to 10 days. However, those returning from countries where the Omicron variant has been prevalent will still be required to self-quarantine in government-designated accommodation facilities for periods between three and 10 days.

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