Covid isolation cut to five days in England over shortages
Boris Johnson’s government cut the Covid-19 self-isolation period in England to five days from seven as the surge in omicron infections sparked staff shortages at hospitals, schools and businesses.
The reduction will take effect from Jan. 17, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on Thursday. Data from the U.K. Health Security Agency shows that around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five, he said.
People who have tested positive for the virus are free to leave isolation as long as they test negative on days five and six, bringing the UK into line with the US. “We want to use the testing capacity that we’ve built up to help these people leave isolation safely,” Javid said.
Ministers were under mounting pressure to slash the isolation period, with businesses also warning that supply chains are coming under strain. Two hundred armed forces personnel were sent into hospitals in London this month to plug staffing gaps.
Johnson has relied on light-touch restrictions to manage the omicron-driven wave of the virus, and his spokesman has pointed to early signs that UK cases and hospitalizations are starting to fall.
The premier has vowed to review the measures -- including guidance to work from home and mandatory face coverings in indoor public spaces -- by Jan. 26, when they are due to expire.
“Any curbs to our freedoms must be an absolute last resort and that we shouldn’t keep them in place for a day longer than absolutely necessary,” Javid said.