British Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Thursday that the Covid 19 self-isolation period in England would be cut from seven to five full days, following increasing pressure from business and health sectors on the impact of Omicron-linked staff absences.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Javid confirmed that from January 17, individuals will be allowed to end their self-isolation after five days if they have negative lateral flow results on both day five and day six and do not have a temperature. .
“From Monday, people can test twice before going, leaving isolation at the beginning of day six,” he told MPs. “These two tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans, and I want to urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we have built up in tests so that we can restore the freedoms in this country while keeping everyone safe.”
Individuals who have not been vaccinated should isolate themselves for the full 10-day period.
Javid said data from the UK Health Security Agency showed that about two-thirds of positive cases were no longer contagious by the end of day five.
Under previous government guidance, individuals who had at least two Covid-19 vaccine doses and recorded two negative lateral flow tests on day six and day seven were able to terminate isolation early.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, called the policy change “a pragmatic step”, which would welcome the health service “if it could mean more health and care workers who are good enough can return to the front line, provided it does not significantly contribute to the risk of the virus spreading. ”
Billy Quilty, an epidemiologist of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. who studied the length of self-isolation periods, said the test requirement means new isolation orders are ‘low risk’. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reduced the self-isolation period to five days last month, but without a test requirement.
“The beauty of test to release is that it is tailored for each person,” Quilty said, adding that it will further increase the demand for lateral flow tests.
Javid said that although the NHS would remain under “significant pressure” over the next few weeks and the threat posed by Omicron remained, the UK, through its incentive program, testing capabilities and antiviral treatment, was the “freest country in Europe”. He added: “This country is leading the world in learning to live with Covid.”
The decision comes as England’s health service continues to be plagued by pandemic – related staff shortages as it struggles with more than 2,000 coronavirus surveys a day and increasing pressure on electives and emergency care.
About 80,824 NHS staff at acute hospital trusts in England were off work on January 9, about half due to Covid-19 disease or self-isolation.
Separate NHS data showed that as of November last year, 6 million patients had been waiting for planned surgeries and procedures, the highest level since records began in 2007. Ambulance calls for life-threatening conditions and the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be picked up after going to an accident ward and also reached record highs.
“Omicron has increased the number of people in hospital with Covid, while drastically reducing the number of staff who can work,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director. “Despite this, NHS staff have once again done everything possible to keep services to patients going.”
Separately, Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, announced on Thursday that he was leaving his government position at the end of March after four-and-a-half years in the role.
Javid paid tribute to Van-Tam in the Commons, saying: “There are not many clinical advisers who can be recognized by just three letters, but JVT’s unique and straightforward approach to communication has led him to quickly become a national hero. has become. ”