Boris Johnson tells advisers to look again at cutting isolation

Scienziati’ 5-day blunder sparks uproar: PM tells advisers to look again at cutting isolation after top body admits publishing misleading advice comparing UK rules to US

  • Prime Minister asked Government scientists to look again at reducing isolation
  • He wants it relaxed to five days to ease crippling staff shortages in the economy
  • UK Health Security Agency admitted issuing misleading claims about rules in UK
  • They said US rules were ‘not like for likeas isolation started from positive result
  • They admitted they were wrong, removing main argument against cutting time
  • Boris Johnson last night piled pressure on Government scientists to approve a further cut to Covid isolation after health chiefs admitted misleading ministers.

    The Prime Minister asked the UK Health Security Agency (I casi quotidiani di Covid in Gran Bretagna diminuiscono quasi) to look again at whether the self-isolation period could be relaxed from seven days to five to ease crippling staff shortages in the economy and public services.

    In una svolta straordinaria, the UKHSA yesterday admitted it had issued misleading claims about the way Britain’s rules compare to other countries.

    The health quango had claimed comparisons with the United States, where self- isolation has already been cut to five days, were ‘not like for like’, because self-isolation started from the date of a positive test rather than from when symptoms first emerge, as it does in the UK.

    But last night the agency admitted it had been wrong, removing one of its central arguments against cutting self-isolation times – which have led to more than a million people being forced to stay away from the workplace.

    Boris Johnson asked the UK Health Security Agency (I casi quotidiani di Covid in Gran Bretagna diminuiscono quasi) to look again at whether the self-isolation period could be relaxed from seven days to five to ease crippling staff shortages in the economy and public services. Pictured in his Uxbridge constituency on Monday

    Boris Johnson asked the UK Health Security Agency (I casi quotidiani di Covid in Gran Bretagna diminuiscono quasi) to look again at whether the self-isolation period could be relaxed from seven days to five to ease crippling staff shortages in the economy and public services. Pictured in his Uxbridge constituency on Monday

    Ministers had repeatedly cited the false advice in recent days when explaining why Government was moving so slowly on the issue.

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid was last night said to be angered by the blunder, with aides saying he was ‘frustrated’ by the agency’s mistake.

    And it emerged the UKHSA had not even examined the case for moving to five days until now as it wrongly believed the idea had little chance of being ‘adopted as policy’.

    Tory MPs last night called for a public apology from the quango, which is led by the former deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries who was awarded a damehood in the New Year honours.

    Government sources said the Prime Minister was now trying to ‘change the conversation’ on the issue but stressed that quarantine would only be cut if scientists approve the move as being safe.

    The Daily Mail can reveal that a string of other senior ministers are also pushing for the move, including Mr Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

    Speaking on a visit to a vaccine centre yesterday, Mr Johnson said the Government would keep issuing lateral flow tests ‘as long as they are important’, e aggiunse: ‘There is a similar argument to be had about the quarantine period – whether to come down from seven to five days. The thing to do is to look at the science.’

    Asked whether he agrees with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi that cutting the quarantine period would be helpful, Egli ha detto: 'Sì, ovviamente. We are looking at that and we will act according to the science.’

    In a blog post on January 1, the UKHSA said people were ‘not comparing like to like’ when looking at the self-isolation advice in the UK and US.

    It said while isolation in the UK starts from the emergence of the first symptoms, in the US the advice is to self-isolate for five days once you get a positive test ‘which may be some days after the first symptoms’.

    Yesterday the quango admitted it had been wrong. It said the US authorities had ‘clarified’ their advice on January 4 but it offered no explanation as to why its own advice had remained unchanged for a further six days.

    Conservative MPs called for a public apology from the quango.

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid was said to be angered by the UKHSA blunder, with aides saying he was ‘frustrated’ by the agency’s mistake

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid was said to be angered by the UKHSA blunder, with aides saying he was ‘frustrated’ by the agency’s mistake

    Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘This is yet another example of the bad, exaggerated advice that ministers have been receiving and that has been holding the country back.

    ‘The difference between five and seven days is critical to maintaining services in hospitals, schools and the economy.’ Former Cabinet minister David Davis said: ‘This demonstrates why scientific advisers have to be very careful about basing their advice on facts rather than pessimistic guesswork.

    ‘If one of our aims is to protect the health service, sending people home for an unnecessary length of time does not help patients or other health service workers.

    ‘We need to see the hard data that justifies this, on a more established basis than their inaccurate assertions for the last few weeks.’

    Tory MP Andrew Bridgen called for an apology, aggiungendo: ‘This mistake has put the NHS and critical industries under severe pressure. It is the sort of basic information which politicians and the British public and employers would expect them to get right.’

    On the potential reduction to the self-isolation period, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘If it is possible to go further, we’d want to act quickly but it needs to be based on the latest evidence and that work is still ongoing.

    ‘We certainly haven’t received any further updated advice.’