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The self-isolation period for people in contact with someone who has coronavirus is being cut from 14 to 10 days across the UK, it has been announced, and could be dispensed with entirely early next year.
A joint statement from the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the period that people have to quarantine after returning from overseas countries not on their nation’s safe travel corridor list is also being cut to 10 days.
The change for self-isolation has already come into force in Wales, and will happen in the other UK nations from Monday, applying retrospectively even for those already self-isolating.
Keir Starmer is self-isolating for a second time after a staff member in his private office tested positive for coronavirus. The new guidance means the Labour leader can now leave self-isolation on Monday, rather than later in the week.
The joint statement from the chief medical officers said that after a review of the evidence, they were “confident” about cutting the time period, adding: “We urge everyone to self-isolate when appropriate, it will save lives.”
The 10-day period already applies to people who have suspected coronavirus symptoms, or have a positive test.
The chief medical officers say people are most infectious in the first two days before developing symptoms, and that by day 10, just 1% to 2% are still capable of passing on the virus to others.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said the evidence was that “the tail-end of infectiousness, if you like, is the one where an individual is least likely to transmit infection”.
She added: “So allowing somebody out of self-isolation a short time earlier than that is a reasonable balance between managing the risk to the public but allowing us not to intrude on their lives.”
At the same time, the government has begun pilot schemes to look at ending the self-isolation period altogether next year. The trial, based in Liverpool, will see contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases tested daily for a period, and only asked to isolate if they test positive.
The reduction in self-isolation has been mooted for weeks, with the 10-day period reported in November to have been chosen as a compromise between the recommendation of Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and the desire of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser, for it to be lower.
An issue with the 14-day period has been low rates of compliance, often because people cannot afford to miss work for such a long period, especially if they are not entitled to sick pay. According to documents from the government’s Sage group of scientific advisers released in September, less than 20% of people in England fully self-isolate when asked to do so.
“Rates of self-isolation from other members of a household [are] likely to be lower due to physical and other practical constraints,” the minutes said. “These rates may be even lower in those who are asymptomatic who receive a positive result on mass testing, given likely lower perceived risk of being infected.”
Poorer people were less likely to self-isolate because they could not afford to miss work, the scientists said.
Johnson was forced to isolate inside Downing Street for a fortnight from mid-November after holding a meeting inside No 10 with a group of Tory MPs.
One of these, Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, in Nottinghamshire, later tested positive for Covid. Johnson was pictured standing next to Anderson inside Downing Street. The men appeared to be less than 2 metres apart and neither was wearing a mask.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK Covid self-isolation period reduced from 14 to 10 days | World news