Virus isolation period extended from seven to 10 days, new changes announced

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LONDON: People who test positive for coronavirus or show symptoms in the UK must now self-isolate for at least 10 days, rather than seven.

The change, announced by the UK’s chief medical officers, comes as ministers try to avoid a resurgence of the virus.

Until now, those showing key symptoms – a new continuous cough, a temperature or loss of taste or smell – have had to self-isolate for at least a week.

The new advice is in line with World Health Organization guidance.

The chief medical officers said the change is “particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission”.

Evidence shows that people with Covid-19 have “a low but real possibility of infectiousness” between seven and nine days after falling ill, they said.

It comes after the prime minister warned of signs of a “second wave” of the pandemic in parts of Europe.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast before the announcement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government wanted to “take a precautionary approach” and “protect people from that wave reaching our shores”.

There have also been concerns about several local outbreaks across the UK, including in Oldham, Wrexham and Staffordshire.

Meanwhile, the government is also expected on Thursday to review the restrictions in Leicester again, a month after the city was put into extended lockdown following a spike in cases.

Those returning to the UK from certain countries are also being asked to quarantine for 14 days – a move that has sparked complaints from travel firms.

Ministers are also looking for a way to reduce the current 14-day quarantine period for arrivals to the UK, meaning that quarantine and self-isolation time periods could be standardised at 10 days.

Highest level of deaths

England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe between the end of February and the middle of June, official analysis shows. The Office for National Statistics says England saw the second highest peak rates of death in Europe, after Spain.

But England had the longest period where deaths were above average, and so overall had the highest levels. Areas in Spain and Italy, like Milan and Madrid, were harder hit than cities in the UK

But the ONS analysis shows the epidemic in the UK was more widespread than in other countries, with Scotland seeing the third highest death rate in Europe. By 23 May, the death rate in England was 7.5% higher than it has been in recent years.

Spain’s increase, 6.7%, was the second highest in the countries studied followed by Scotland’s rise of 5.1%.

Wales and Northern Ireland both also featured in the list of hardest-hit countries.

This analysis adds to previous studies of excess deaths by taking account of the ages of the population in each country. Seven of the 15 cities that saw the biggest rise in deaths rates were in the UK.