Pressure mounts on No10 to reduce Covid isolation time to five days

Pressure is mounting on the government to cut the Covid isolation period in England as it emerged that health chiefs had misled ministers about the proposal.

School leaders today backed calls to relax the rules, as they revealed classes of more than 100 children were being taught in gyms due to teacher shortages.

Dame Maura Regan, executive director of the Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust, said schools would “welcome” the move to avoid further disruption in student education.

The support comes after business leaders, MPs and even NHS leaders urged No10 to consider following the United States in reducing isolation to five days to ease pressure on the economy and vital services .

But the move was ruled out by the British Food Safety Agency, which said comparisons with the United States were “not comparable”.

Last night, it emerged that the quango wrongly told ministers that the country’s period of self-isolation begins from the date of a positive test rather than when symptoms first appear. times, as is the case in the UK.

Ministers have repeatedly cited the false advice in recent days when explaining why the government is moving so slowly on the issue.

It also emerged that the UKHSA had not even modeled the safety or benefit of moving to five days until now, as they mistakenly believed that the idea had no chance of being ‘adopted into’. as a policy ”.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was reportedly angered by the blunders last night and Boris Johnson asked the UKHSA to reconsider the change.

In a thinly veiled search at the health quango, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said today: “If it is possible to go any further, we would like to act quickly. But it must be based on the latest evidence and this work is still in progress. We certainly have not received any other updated advice.

Boris Johnson (pictured returning from his morning run today) has called on the UKHSA to reconsider the possibility of reducing isolation to five days

Boris Johnson (pictured returning from his morning run today) has called on the UKHSA to reconsider the possibility of reducing isolation to five days

UKHSA Patron Saint Jenny Harries, the former Deputy Chief Medical Officer who received the title of Lady in New Year's Honors.  She has been criticized in the past for defending the decision to drop testing and contact tracing at the start of the pandemic, which was widely viewed as a failure

UKHSA Patron Saint Jenny Harries, the former Deputy Chief Medical Officer who received the title of Lady in New Year’s Honors. She has been criticized in the past for defending the decision to drop testing and contact tracing at the start of the pandemic, which was widely viewed as a failure

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson revealed that the prospect of cutting the isolation period after testing positive for Covid was not discussed by Cabinet ministers today.

But he said the government “is gathering the latest evidence.”

Covid cases are now on the decline in ALL regions except the North East

Covid cases are now on the decline in all regions except the North East, according to official figures which add to a growing body of evidence that the worst of the Omicron outbreak may be. -has been.

Statistics from the UK Health Safety Agency show rates in London – which was the first region to fall victim to the highly transmissible variant – started to drop before Christmas, raising hopes that the rest of the nation would soon follow the example.

Now, Covid government data shows cases are finally on the decline in seven of England’s other eight regions, suggesting the wave may have peaked in much of the country.

Experts are hoping the Omicron crisis will begin to end naturally after reaching “unbelievable” levels last month.

But there are fears that the promising trajectory may reverse in the coming days as schools return from the Christmas holidays, with infections then spreading across age groups as seen in previous waves.

Despite confusion as to exactly where the country lies on the epidemic curve, ministers face calls to announce how they plan to live with the virus after nearly two years of an endless cycle crippling restrictions.

Deaths barely increased in England’s most recent wave and are currently around half the level of a year’s bad flu, according to the analysis. The number of critically ill hospitalized patients is still stable, although Omicron started to spiral out of control a month ago.

“We want to keep this under review, make sure we have the right approach, you know we’ve gone from 10 to seven. But what we absolutely don’t do is prejudge anything.

A series of other high-ranking ministers are also pushing for the decision, including Mr Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The spokesperson was also forced to defend UKHSA boss Jenny Harries, the former deputy chief medical officer who received the title of Lady in New Year’s Honors.

She has been criticized in the past for defending the decision to drop testing and contact tracing at the start of the pandemic, which was widely viewed as a failure.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Dame Maura said she would support a shortening of the period of isolation.

She revealed that some schools have been forced to combine classes and cram up to 120 children into school rooms because so many staff are no longer isolated.

She said: “Personally, I would welcome that, because I think the most important thing is that there are a lot of staff who don’t actually have any symptoms, a lot of kids who don’t. no symptoms, and I think it’s important to get the staff back as quickly as possible. ‘

It comes after an investigation by the teachers’ union NASUWT found that nearly half of teachers were forced to cover up colleagues who were on sick leave due to coronavirus as distance learning reached its peak. highest level since lockdown.

Dame Maura told Today that “one of the biggest challenges” for schools right now is “effective supply coverage”.

She added: “I think the most important thing we need to remember is that while it’s important for all kids, it’s especially important for students who are actually facing exams, and a lot. of them have had two, two and a half years of disruption and then having a lack of quality education is actually a bigger disruption for them.

On Monday, Mr Johnson said ministers were considering reducing the self-isolation period from seven to five days for fully vaccinated people who test positive for Covid, with the Health Secretary apparently supporting such a move.

A number of Tory MPs have criticized the UKHSA for its misleading advice to ministers regarding the isolation rules.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “This is yet another example of the exaggerated bad advice ministers have received and which has held back the country.

“The difference between five and seven days is critical to sustaining services in hospitals, schools and the economy. ”

Former Cabinet Minister David Davis said: “This shows why science advisers should be very careful to base their advice on facts rather than pessimistic guesswork.

“If one of our goals is to protect health services, sending people home for unnecessary length of time does not help patients or other health workers.

“We need to see the hard data that justifies this, on a more established basis than their inaccurate claims of the past few weeks.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen called for an apology, adding: “This mistake has put the NHS and critical industries under great pressure. This is the kind of background information that politicians, the British public and employers are getting. would expect them to get the correct information.

Regarding the potential reduction of the period of self-isolation, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “If it is possible to go further, we would like to act quickly but this must be based on the latest evidence and this work is still in progress.

“We certainly haven’t received any other updated advice.”

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