EXPERTS are backing a change to self-isolation rules that would limit the impact of Covid on the economy.
The current law says that you have to self-isolate for 10 days following the start of your symptoms or a positive test result.
But this could be shortened to just seven days if ministers take advice from one of Britain’s leading Covid scientists.
It would reduce pressures on the UK’s workforce, with huge proportions of staff off in isolation due to the Omicron Covid wave.
The British Medical Association has warned as many as 50,000 staff could be struck down with Covid and forced to self-isolate by Christmas Day.
With significant shortages across emergency services, ministers are primarily looking at new plans to put Brits under new Covid restrictions, such as banning indoor socialising.
Prof Neil Ferguson, a senior adviser to the Government on the Sage panel, said research shows it was safe to cut the self-isolation window.
As long as the infected person took lateral flow tests every day, and had a negative result on day seven, it would give them the green-light to freedom.
Asked what he thought of changing the rule, the Imperial College London modeller told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday: “I think it’s always a tradeoff between effectiveness of those things, and peoples adherence to them.
“I think if it could be coupled with lateral flow testing – so testing negative to release, and this was looked at some months ago, even a year ago in terms of these rules – all the modelling and analysis would suggest its not going to reduce the effectiveness of the measures that much.
🔵 Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest updates
“If it’s just a simple change of 10 to seven days with no testing, you have a slightly bigger impact on the effectiveness of the measures.”
The self-isolation period was 14 days at the start of the pandemic. But in December 2020, it was reduced to 10 days.
It was discovered that people are most infectious around the time they first develop symptoms.
Fourteen days was not justified because only a tiny proportion of Covid patients would still be capable of passing on the virus to others at the tail end of infection.
“People are most infectious in the first five days, after which time infectiousness falls”, said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, according to MailOnline.
“Some people are no longer infectious after three days and it makes no sense to keep them locked up.
“Isolating people for ten days when they are no longer infectious will harm the economy and leave vital public services, such as the NHS, short-staffed.
“People could perhaps take a daily lateral flow test and be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative for two days in a row.”
It was considered that the time from exposure to the virus and infectiousness was even shorter with Omicron.
Therefore, it may make even less sense to put people into quarantine for several days after the point at which they are contagious.
However, Sage has said in its papers this weekend there was “no evidence” Omicron had a shorter incubation period or that the length of the infectious period with Omicron differs from previous variants.
The Government recently made a change to self-isolation rules to prevent a “winter pingdemic”, whereby millions of people are forced into self-isolation on a precautionary basis.
The rules previously stated that people who are contacts of someone with the super-fast spreading Omicron variant have to self-isolate.
But this was scrapped in favour of daily testing over a week.
Already the pressures of Omicron are showing with NHS and hospitality staffing levels plummeting.
Luke Johnson, a serial entrepreneur and chairman of The Bread Factory, said some businesses had ten per cent of their workforce in isolation.
“The vast majority of those isolating aren’t sick and most with symptoms say it feels like a cold,” he said.
“Ten days in isolation is too long. The tests are flawed, and asymptomatic spread is unproven.
“This means the economy and indeed the NHS risks grinding to a halt very soon.”
It comes as scientists feeding into Sage said some self-isolation rules should be toughened up.
In a document published Saturday that discusses Covid interventions in light of Omicron, scientists said if only one person gets a positive lateral flow test prior to an event, the whole household shouldn’t go.
They said “there is a significant chance that others are already infected” if Omicron is already in the home.
But the move could put thousands more people in isolation that don’t need to be.
The hospitality industry is already struggling as towns and cities have almost emptied in the lead up to Christmas due to Omicron.
UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said many businesses may not re-open as she pleaded with the Government to refrain from more Covid restrictions.
However, new plans are being drawn up by Whitehall to tackle Omicron, with the country facing an abrupt full-scale lockdown as early as Boxing Day, the Sun revealed.
The plan has yet to be presented to ministers but it could impact New Year celebration plans.
A source said: “A set of proposals is being worked on that would let people celebrate Christmas, but then the handbrake would be pulled.”
Three options are being presented to the PM, according to The Telegraph.
The first option involves urging the public to limit the number of people they socialise with indoors in England, reports claim.
The second option includes the above – as well as mandatory social distancing and an 8pm pub and restaurant curfew.
Option three is a full, country-wide lockdown.
Any new legal restrictions would require the recall of MPs to Parliament to vote them through, but Mr Johnson is facing a huge rebellion.
It comes after Sage warned ministers that indoor mixing is the “biggest risk factor” for the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Minutes from their meetings show the advise given to ministers was of a sombre tone, saying Omicron could not be held back by boosters alone.
It said the ramping up of the programme in recent days would not help the NHS in the near future, due to the delay in building immunity.
The experts warned there are likely to be 1,000 and 2,000 hospital admissions per day in England by the end of the year, even if transmission is reduced soon.
But without intervention beyond Plan B, modelling indicates a peak of at least 3,000 hospital admissions per day in England.
Currently around 800 people are being admitted in England every day.
There have been 37,101 confirmed cases of Omicron so far, with an additional 12,133 infections reported by UKHSA on Sunday.
However, officials say the true figure will be larger because not all cases are detected through testing methods.
Source: The Sun