Boris Johnson confirms he is ‘certainly looking’ at slashing the Covid isolation period to five days ‘as fast as possible’ as ministers could sign off on the move TOMORROW to get more people back to work after Omicron wreaked havoc with staff absences
Boris Johnson today confirmed he is ‘certainly looking’ at reducing the coronavirus self-isolation period in England amid reports ministers will agree a move from seven days to five tomorrow.
The Prime Minister told MPs at lunchtime that he hopes to ‘bring you more about that as fast as possible’ in a clear hint that a decision could be imminent.
The Government has reportedly concluded that the benefits of reducing quarantine to get more people back to work outweigh the increased risk of more people leaving self-isolation while still infectious.
The Covid-O committee of senior ministers is likely to sign off on the move to five days tomorrow, secondo The Times.
Mr Johnson has faced repeated calls from business leaders and Tory MPs in recent weeks to slash the self-isolation period for positive cases after the surge of infections during the Omicron wave wreaked havoc with the nation’s workforce.
Boris Johnson today confirmed he is ‘certainly looking’ at reducing the coronavirus self-isolation period in England amid reports ministers will agree a move from seven days to five tomorrow
The Government has reportedly concluded that the benefits of reducing quarantine to get more people back to work outweigh the increased risk of more people leaving self-isolation while still infectious
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is said to be among the ministers who are backing the policy change
Mr Johnson faced fresh calls to cut the self-isolation period to five days during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Tory MP Simon Fell told the PM that 12 per 15 per cent of the workforce at his local hospital trust is ‘away isolating’ while beds are being blocked by patients who are unable to return to social care facilities.
Mr Fell said: ‘So with that in mind will by right honourable friend consider reducing the self-isolation period, if it is seen to be safe to do so, down to five days and also accepting any MACA (Military Aid to the Civil Authorities) requests which come through to help get people back out into the community and into social care.’
Mr Johnson replied: 'Sì, we are certainly looking at reducing the isolation period. I hope to bring you more about that as fast as possible.
‘We will certainly look at all MACA requests. But more fundamentally what we can do to alleviate the pressures in his hospital is to fix the health and social care divide which is what this Government is also doing after a generation of neglect.’
Mr Johnson has apparently been told by his scientific advisers that reducing the self-isolation period to five days will result in a slightly increased infection risk.
But there is a feeling in the Cabinet that the move now makes sense because Covid infections appear to to be peaking while staff absences remain high.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is said to be among the ministers who are backing the policy change which would see England follow the lead of the US where the self-isolation period is already five days.
A Government source told The Times: ‘With the epidemiology going in the right direction, the merits [of cutting isolation] are becoming clearer.’
One official said there is a ‘sliding scale of risk’ and ‘it’s up to ministers to make the trade-offs’.
The UK Health Security Agency has submitted data to the Government which apparently shows approximately six per cent of people leaving quarantine after seven days are still infectious.
That number would rise to approximately eight per cent if the quarantine period is reduced to five days with a negative test requirement.
Ministers cut the self-isolation period in England from 10 days to seven just before Christmas. Galles, Northern Ireland and Scotland all then followed suit after Christmas.
UK ministers had been resisting going any further but always insisted that the policy was being kept under constant review.
They are now reportedly persuaded that they can move to five days amid growing signs that the Omicron wave may have peaked.
Daily coronavirus cases fell by nearly 45 per cent week on week yesterday – the biggest drop since Omicron infections spiked.
C'erano 120,821 new positive tests logged across the country, down from the pandemic high of 218,000 on the previous Tuesday.