The minimum self-isolation period for people who test positive for Covid-19 in England will be reduced from seven to five days on Monday, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced Thursday.
“Around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five,” Javid told the House of Commons, citing data from the UK Health Security Agency.
“After reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England. From Monday, people can test [negative] twice before they go, leaving isolation at the start of day six,” he continued.
Currently, anyone who tested positive in England could leave self–isolation seven days after the date of their initial positive test if they received two negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days six and seven of their isolation period.
Javid told the Commons 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.”
Despite “encouraging signs that infections are falling in London and the East of England,” he warned of the need to “proceed with caution,” adding the Omicron variant “still has the potential to lead to significant numbers of people in hospital,” due to its greater transmissibility.
“There’s already almost 17,000 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England, and due to the lag between infections and hospitalizations, the NHS will remain under significant pressure over the next few weeks,” Javid said.
Javid added it was encouraging that England had not seen an increase in Covid-19 intensive care patients during the Omicron wave, but highlighted the importance of vaccines.
“We know that Omicron is less severe, but no one should be under any illusions – it is severe for anyone that ends up in hospital and that’s far more likely if you have not had the jab,” he continued.