England has become the latest country to cut its isolation requirement for people infected with coronavirus to five days, as industries including the health sector face vast staff absences due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Thursday that the decision was based on U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data that showed “around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five.”
Therefore, from next Monday, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will no longer need to isolate for seven days, but five. They can leave isolation at the start of day six if they produce two negative lateral flow test results on days five and six.
England follows the U.S., Greece and France in cutting its isolation to five days, on condition of negative tests and no symptoms. While based on data on how infectious people are, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, later admitted the period “really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.”
The NHS Confederation has been calling for this move if it could be backed by appropriate evidence. “We are glad the government has acted quickly,” said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the confederation.
He pointed out that “the number of people in hospital is still high, with admissions still rising” in some areas, adding that “we are certainly not out of the woods yet.”
Javid said there were “encouraging signs” that infections are falling in London and the East of England, but acknowledged rates were still rising in other parts of the country. He pointed out that there were already early signs that the rate of hospitalization is also starting to slow.