The dreaded text message arrives: Enter quarantine now...
The dreaded text message arrives: Enter quarantine now...iStock

England (but not Scotland or Wales) is cutting its isolation requirements for those who test positive for coronavirus from seven to five days, the UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced.

The change in policy will come into effect next Monday for all those who test negative.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England,” Javid told the UK House of Commons. “From Monday, people can leave isolation at the start of day six, subject to two negative lateral flow tests taken a day apart, with the first of these tests being no sooner than Day 5.”

The British government had reportedly been under pressure to bring the situation in England into line with the United States, where the isolation period has already been cut to five days.

The move will also help address staff shortages across the economy and most critically in hospitals and other public services.

A total of 40,031 staff at National Health Service hospital trusts in England were absent due to Covid-19 infection or contact on January 9, an increase of two per cent from the previous week and more than three times the number at the start of December.

Nonetheless, the peak of staff absences seems already to have passed, with absences dropping from a high of 49,941 on January 5 and continuing to decline, confirming previous assessments based on a variety of data that Omicron is already on the wane in England.