Covid Self-Isolation Will Be Cut To Five Days In England From Monday
Sajid Javid has confirmed that the minimum self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid-19 and their close contacts will be cut from seven days to five.
The health secretary said that, from Monday, people will be allowed to leave isolation on the sixth day, provided they have tested negative for two days in a row.
Ministers have been under pressure to slash the isolation period in the UK to bring it in line with other countries such as the United States.
In a statement to MPs, Javid said: "I've always said to the House that any curbs on our freedoms must be an absolute last resort, and that we shouldn't keep them in place for a day longer than absolutely necessary."
Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed that people were often no longer infectious from day five, Javid explained.
"After reviewing all of the evidence, we've made the decision to reduce the minimum self isolation period to five full days in England."
He said that this move was possible as the UK was "leading the world in learning to live with Covid" and that the country was "the most boosted, the most tested" and had "the most antivirals".
"It's no wonder that we are the freest country in Europe," he added.
Prior to the change, official guidance stated that cases needed to isolate for at least six full days from the point at which they have symptoms or get a positive test, whichever was first.
Boris Johnson had hinted at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday that the period was about to be slashed, telling MPs that "we are certainly looking at reducing the isolation period" and promised more information "as fast as possible".
Labour's Wes Streeting said his party "welcomed" the move to cut the isolation period, but criticised the health secretary for claiming the UK Health Security Agency was responsible for the delay.
The shadow health secretary said: "What took the Secretary of State so long? Is it really because the government had misread the policy of the Biden administration?"
"How many days does he think the NHS has lost, the economy has lost, because they couldn't read the policy being used in the United States?"
"The Secretary of State has been briefing that it's the Health Security Agency's fault. How brave of him to blame officials."
Javid also told MPs on Thursday that there were "encouraging signs" that case rates are dropping in London and the East of England.
But he warned that "we're still currently seeing infections rise in other parts of the country".
"The data does not as of yet reflect the impact of people returning to work and school, so we must proceed with caution," he added.
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