Government updates self-isolation rules with limited exemptions for 16 sectors

While most Covid restrictions in England ended on Monday 19 July, the requirements for people testing positive and their close contacts to self-isolate will continue to apply until 16 August, when they will change for under-18s and double-vaccinated adults.

However, with more than 600,000 people required to self-isolate as close contacts of a positive Covid case in the last week, fears are growing over consequent staffing shortages in critical sectors.

This has prompted the Government to update its guidance on NHS Test and Trace in the workplace to provide limited exemptions to self-isolation for named double-vaccinated individuals working in any of 16 sectors, where the appropriate Government department has given written consent.

The requirements to qualify for the exemption are extremely stringent. Individuals must:

  • Work in ‘critical elements of national infrastructure’; and
  • Their absence must be likely to result in the loss or compromise of this infrastructure; and
  • Have a major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services; or
  • Have a significant impact on national security, defence or the functioning of the state.

Affected employees will only be able to leave self-isolation to undertake critical work and must otherwise self-isolate.

The 16 sectors and appropriate Government departments are:


Main sectors covered

Contact details



Civil nuclear

[email protected]


Digital infrastructure

[email protected]


Food production and supply



Veterinary medicines

Essential chemicals

[email protected]


Essential transport

[email protected]



Medical devices

Clinical consumable supplies

[email protected]

Home Office

Emergency services

Border control

[email protected]


Essential defence outputs

[email protected]


Local government

[email protected]

To qualify for an exemption, an employer must contact the appropriate department with information on the individuals they wish for it to apply to, their roles, and the likely impact of their self-isolation.

If agreed, the department will then write to the employer with the names of exempted employees. An exemption will only apply to employees whose employer receives such a letter that names them.

Other arrangements apply to workers in frontline health and social care roles and up to 500 workplaces in the food supply chain will be able to use daily testing instead of self-isolation from next week as part of a separate initiative.


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