Covid self-isolation period to be cut to five days

Sajid Javid was made Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in the January

Sajid Javid has confirmed that there will be a reduction in the Covid isolation period - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The amount of time people with coronavirus in England have to spend in self-isolation is set to be cut to five full days, the health secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told MPs in the House of Commons that data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows “that around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five".

Mr Javid said from Monday that people will be required to take two tests to get out of isolation and can leave isolation at the start of day six.

This follows pressure on the government to bring England in line with the United States, where the isolation period is five days.

Previous guidance from the UKHSA was for people to isolate for at least six full days from when they started having symptoms or tested positive.

People could leave isolation on day seven after two negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: ”We are certainly looking at reducing the isolation period, and we hope to bring you more about that… as fast as possible.”

The decision is likely to be welcomed by Tories who have called for the change and could help ease pressure on Boris Johnson.

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It could also help address staff shortages across the economy and public services by allowing people to return to work earlier.

The health service has been under intense pressure because of high Covid rates, leading to both hospital admissions and staff absences increasing.

A total of 40,031 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 9, up 2pc on the previous week, and more than three times the number at the start of December.

But NHS England data shows that hospital staff absences due to Covid have dropped every day since reaching a peak of 49,941 on January 5.

The total includes staff who were ill with coronavirus or who were having to self-isolate.