Health Secretary Sajid Javid to give major Covid update in statement to Commons TODAY
THE Health Secretary will give a Covid update to ministers in the House of Commons later today.
It comes amid calls to bring down the isolation period for people with Covid to five days.
Just before Christmas it was reduced from ten to seven days, but as hospitals and emergency services struggle with absent staff, more changes have been called for.
Last night we told how ministers were expected to make a decision, as soon as today, on the pressing issue.
Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he would have to accept a slightly increased risk of people leaving isolation while still infectious if he wanted to get people back working sooner.
It follows a string of hugely positive studies showing Omicron is milder than other strains in the vaccinated.
Covid booster jabs protect against getting seriously ill with the variant and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has submitted updated estimates to the Cabinet Office concluding that a five-day isolation period would be riskier for infections than the current seven days.
But Sajid Javid is said to be among ministers to agree the policy makes sense as infections start to peak but absences in the workplace continue.
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It is thought the shorter isolation period is expected to be signed off today at a meeting of the government’s Covid-O committee.
Today Professor Tim Spector, from the Zoe Covid Symptom Study, said Omicron seems to be affecting people for a shorter time.
He added: "It shows that the restrictions, social distancing, possibly mask wearing has had a greater effect on colds and flu than omicron, which is even better at infecting us.
"It does suggest that these symptoms are of shorter duration than they are of Delta.
"Can't put an exact figure on it, but that's eyeballing the data – that's what it looks like.
"People are having symptoms for a shorter amount of time, especially in that first week.
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"It suggests that the isolation period of a week could be reduced to five days.
"If people are testing negative with lateral flow tests at the end of those five days because the whole period of that infection and getting over it appears to be faster.
"Hospitals being unmanned is far worse risk than the occasional bit of Covid slipping through."
It is estimated around six per cent leave isolation while still infectious under the present rule.
If the isolation period was slashed to five days with negative test results this would rise to about eight per cent.
“It’s a sliding scale of risk and it’s up to ministers to make the trade-offs,” one official is quoted as saying.
“If they think the risk to key workers not being at work or the economy not running as fast as it could is bigger than the risk of infection, it’s up to them.”
Only last week ministers were wary of making any change that potentially worsened the epidemic and the need to bring in further restrictions.
It follows suggestions from experts saying the deadly bug could soon be like the common cold by spring – with data suggesting 98% of Brits have 'some form' of resistance to Omicron.
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