Minister rejects calls to reduce self-isolation to five days in England | Coronavirus


Calls to reduce the period of Covid self-isolation in England from seven to five days in order to reduce NHS staff shortages have been rejected by a government minister.

Chloe Smith, the Minister for Persons with Disabilities, Health and Labor, said the previous 10-day period had only recently been reduced by three. This came after a senior NHS official warned that staff absences due to Covid in the winter months – exacerbated by underlying shortages – were likely to pose a bigger problem for the NHS than numbers. of Omicron-related patients hospitalized.

“There are currently no plans in England to change this period,” Smith told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday. “Of course, we actually only recently reduced the number from 10 to seven, and we want to look at that – we want to make sure that it works the way we think it is.

“So we think the current period is the right one, so we don’t intend to change that further.”

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U.S. health officials halved the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic Covid to five days on Tuesday. A leading immunologist has suggested the UK could follow a similar path if the capacity and quality of rapid tests can support it.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and government adviser on life sciences, said the disease associated with Omicron was found to be less severe than with previous variants.

“My take is that lateral flow testing is a really good way to mark who’s infectious and who isn’t and as you know we’ve gone from 10 days to seven days if you have tests. of sequential lateral flows. It’s a much better way to measure and quantify if we allow people to return to the community who are contagious, ”he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday.

When asked if he thought this should lead to a further reduction in the period of self-isolation in England, he replied: “If this was backed up by lateral flow data, yes.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, told Today that a decrease in the period of self-isolation would help alleviate the crisis Staff. But he acknowledged that ministers need to carefully balance this against the risk of increased transmission.

Boris Johnson, who ruled out any further restrictions in England ahead of the New Year, has been accused of missing in action this week. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association‘s ruling board, suggested the prime minister had ignored “the elephant in the room” of staff absence levels, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

And NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson has warned that the effect of greater social mixing over Christmas is yet to come, telling BBC Breakfast on the same day that the NHS was bracing for an increase in the number of patients. hospitalized with Omicron.

Staff self-isolation is straining the NHS, with union leader saying already overburdened public services are in a ‘perilous state’ and experts warn of a ‘worst case’ in which up to 40% of NHS staff in London are unable to work.

Hopson added: “We are now seeing a significant increase in the number of staff absences, and many of our GMs say they think this is probably going to be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge for them than necessarily the number of people who need treatment because of Covid. “


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