Major Covid rule change expected after scientists forced to admit making huge error

Boris Johnson is looking at reducing the self-isolation period

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Yesterday the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was forced to admit it had been wrong to claim that the UK’s seven day isolation period was similar to other nations including the US. The public health body had wrongly claimed that while the UK’s seven day isolation period began as soon as someone starts having symptoms while in the US quarantine did not start until confirmed by a positive test.

They said the discrepancy meant in reality the stay at home period was the same in both countries.

Their rationale has been used repeatedly by ministers to push back on calls for a reduction in Britain’s isolation time.

However, UKHSA yesterday was admitted it had made a mistake and the US quarantine period actually begins as soon as someone starts showing symptoms.

The Government was last night furious at the error, with the isolation rules set to be changed to bring the UK into line with the US.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson heaped pressure onto the scientists to change their advice yesterday as he spoke to journalists at a vaccine centre in his constituency.

He said: “The thing to do is to look at the science.

“We are looking at that and we will act according to the science.”

Cabinet ministers including Michael Gove and Nadhim Zahawi have publicly spoken of their support for reducing the isolation time.

With more than 100,000 Covid infections still being registered every day, they believe the change to the rules would help keep the economy running.

There are fears of major staff shortages at hospitals, in schools, and other essential services due to the number of people in quarantine after becoming infected.

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Currently more than a million Britons are in isolation after having caught the virus.

The rule change would help speed up how quickly staff were able to return to the work force.

US scientists recommended reducing isolation to five days last month in order to address the same problem.

They said Americans must isolate for five full days and would then be required to wear a mask at all times outside the home for a further five days.

The UKHSA admitted it had misunderstood the advice in America after being contacted by the US CDC health protection agency to clarify its rules.

A UKHSA spokesperson said: “We updated our blog following clarification from the CDC on their isolation guidance on January 4.

“Our current guidance of releasing individuals from isolation on day seven with two negative lateral flow test results taken 24 hours apart has a low risk of an individual being released infectious – similar to the risk of being infectious after 10 days isolation.

“In the US people are asked to isolate for five full days, in the UK the advice is to isolate for six full days.”

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