Countries around the world are making life more difficult for the unvaccinated against Covid-19.
The case of Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one tennis player, being deported from Australia for refusing to get vaccinated, is the most high-profile example.
But from requiring three jabs to go on holiday, to having to show a Covid pass to enter a football stadium, our vaccination status increasingly plays a part in how we go about our daily lives.
And it affects the UK property industry, too, with the government clamping down on unvaccinated buyers.
New guidelines issued by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities set out that an unvaccinated buyer who lives in the same household as someone who has tested positive for Covid must stay at home and self-isolate. This is the case even during the period when they would have been scheduled to have moved house, meaning they would have to put their house move on hold.
By contrast, the guidance says that if a buyer is fully vaccinated – with two or three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine – they’re not legally required to self-isolate even if they live in the same household as someone with Covid.
Instead, they’re strongly advised to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days, and to self-isolate if any of these test results is positive.
The move is significant as it’s the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that the official government guidance on house moves makes a distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated buyer.
The new guidance also makes clear the importance of good hygiene practices, ‘including regular hand-washing, sanitising, and cleaning’. These measures will help prevent the spread of infection, the guidance states, and improve the home buying and selling process for all.
“We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with Covid-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate,” the guidance adds.
Previous government advice on moving home during the coronavirus pandemic was also reiterated in the government’s statement.
“Property agents, conveyancers and other professionals may choose to retain some modifications to how they work to reduce the risk from Covid-19. These changes could impact your move and may include initial virtual viewings before in-person viewings, asking you to vacate your current property during viewings, and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else views it or moves in. We would ask that you cooperate with these measures where they are in place,” it said.
The updated guidance can be seen in full here.
What are the current rules on self-isolating?
People should self-isolate straight away if they have any of the three main symptoms of Covid-19, even if they are mild.
People should also self-isolate immediately if: they’ve tested positive for Covid-19, someone they live with has symptoms or has tested positive (unless you are not required to self-isolate), or they’ve been told to self-isolate following contact with someone who tested positive.
People don’t need to self-isolate, even if they live with or have been in contact with someone with the virus, if any of the following apply.
- you're fully vaccinated – this means 14 days have passed since your final dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine
- you're under 18 years old
- you're taking part or have taken part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
- you're not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
Even those who don’t have symptoms and don’t need to self-isolate because they are fully vaccinated are strongly advised to carry out daily rapid lateral flow tests (one a day for seven days), to protect themselves and others from Covid-19, as well as following advice on how to avoid catching and spreading the disease and consider limiting contact with people who are at higher risk from Covid-19.
As a result of a change made by the government in late December 2021, people can exit self-isolation after seven days if they record two negative lateral flow tests (taken 24 hours apart) on day six and seven, assuming they are fully vaccinated.
There was, however, no change to the guidance for unvaccinated contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, who are still required to self-isolate for 10 full days after their date of exposure to the virus.
How will all this affect house moves?
With high daily case rates (although with some evidence that infections have peaked and are now falling), there is every chance that buyers and sellers could be thwarted by the need to self-isolate due to Covid, or – if they are unvaccinated – if they live with or are in contact with someone who has had Covid.
This could delay a house move until a person can leave self-isolation – seven days following two negative tests for those who have been fully vaccinated, and 10 full days for those who remain unvaccinated.
There is hope that cases may have peaked and, as we enter springtime, the warmer weather and the greater time spent outdoors will help to lower the rates of infection.
There is no evidence that house sales are being slowed down dramatically because of the need for self-isolation, but it’s important for buyers and sellers – and their agents – to be aware of the rules surrounding self-isolation and house moves, and how these now differ between the vaccinated and unvaccinated for the first time.