UK faces calls to slash Covid isolation to just FIVE days after US halves virus quarantine to ‘keep society functioning’ with Britain now gripped by Omicron-fuelled staffing crisis that has left public services in a ‘perilous state’
American officials last night scrapped an order requiring the infected to self-isolate for 10 days. Instead, they can leave home at the half-way point, as long as they have no symptoms and can wear a mask around people for another five days.
Bosses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insisted the decision was ‘motivated by science’ and to keep ‘society functioning’.
Union bosses have warned the ultra-transmissible variant’s rapid spread has left the NHS and other public sectors in a ‘perilous state’.
Ministers have already squeezed the isolation period to seven days, providing Covid sufferers test negative twice at the end of their week of quarantine.
But Sir John Bell, an immunologist who has advised the Government on Covid, said Britain could go even further and replicate the US by relying on lateral flow tests. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the swabs are ‘quite a good way of marking who is infectious and who isn’t’.
And Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert from the University of East Anglia, said eventually Covid-infected people need to be allowed to ‘go about their normal lives’ as they would with a cold.
He said No10 will have to relax the rules entirely at some point, arguing it may need to happen ‘sooner rather than later’. He suggested rules could be scaled back ‘once we’re past Easter’.
But Professor Hunter admitted it would be premature to drop the quarantine rules right now because the virus is still causing severe disease.
Professor Hunter said the topic would have to be discussed ‘fairly soon’ because the virus will eventually be regarded as a cause of the common cold and won’t warrant the reporting of daily case numbers.
Asked on BBC Breakfast about NHS staff shortages due to workers having to isolate, he said: ‘This is a disease that’s not going away.
‘The infection is not going away, although we’re not going to see as severe disease for much longer.