People in the UK who get one of the three coronavirus symptoms – a cough, fever or change or loss of taste or smell – must now self-isolate at home for 10 days, not a week. But if you get a negative test, you can be released earlier
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People who get coronavirus symptoms in the UK must now self-isolate in their home for at least 10 days, starting from today.
Chief Medical Officers have confirmed an immediate change to the rules – extending the time by three days from the previous minimum of 7 days.
The three Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate for are a persistent cough, fever and change or loss of taste or smell. Any one of those three symptoms should trigger isolation.
People can be “released” from isolation earlier than 10 days if a Covid-19 test comes back negative.
However, if symptoms persist, patients need to stay at home for longer than 10 days until they recover.
It is understood the decision was taken after medical officers discovered a “low but tangible possibility” that some patients remain infectious more than a week after symptoms begin.
And it comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned a second wave of coronavirus is “starting to roll across Europe” – just as millions are encouraged back to work, and 2.2million people are told no longer to shield, from this Saturday.
Today’s guidance was issued by the four Chief Medical Officers and applies to all four nations of the UK.
It applies only to mild and moderately ill cases in the community – not more serious cases in hospitals and care homes.
It also, crucially, does not apply to people in the same household as someone who has symptoms; recent contacts of a confirmed case; or people who’ve arrived in the UK from certain countries like Spain.
This difference in time is because people who have symptoms are further along in their case of Covid-19. Their contacts may still be incubating the illness, so will remain infectious for longer.
For example, if you have symptoms and get a coronavirus test, and that test comes back negative, you will be “released” and no longer need to isolate.
With widespread testing available, that means most people who have symptoms but are coronavirus-free should be able to leave isolation within a few days.
You only need to receive one negative test, not two, to be released from isolation – despite worries not all tests pick up all positive cases.
But new NHS Test and Trace data released this morning was expected to confirm results still take too long to return.
They are delivered quicker from regional drive through testing sites while mail order tests and tests sent via hospitals and care homes can take much longer than the required 24 hours.
One local council in the West Midlands has got so fed up it has set up its own contact tracing system.
Sandwell’s director of public health, Lisa McNally, said dozens of staff had been seconded to the new team to battle COVID-19 outbreaks in the area.
Sandwell currently has the seventh highest case rate in England – 54.1 per 100,000 people – having seen a sharp jump of 332% in the 14 days up to 26 July.
“I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say we’ve given up on Test and Trace, but we’re not happy with just allowing them to do their job anymore,” Ms McNally said. “I just don’t see the urgency to fix this.”
They said the change was made not due to the sudden emergence of new evidence, but because the “time is right” to provide “maximum protection” amid a surge in cases in Europe.
They added the decision was “taken in the context of where we are in the period of the epidemic” and the “totality of the measures in place”.
They said the 10-day rule was “ultra-cautious” and stressed the risk of people remaining infectious more than a week after symptoms start was low.
The “real period of concern” is the first few days, either just before the onset of symptoms, or when symptoms begin, the advisor added.
The ramping-up of measures comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared a second wave of coronavirus is “starting to roll across Europe”.
And there is speculation the Office for National Statistics (ONS) could confirm the first rise in new cases since April tomorrow, after previously saying the long decline “has levelled off”.
Ministers are also preparing to reimpose quarantine tomorrow on people who come to the UK from certain countries with a spike in cases.
Travellers from Spain have already had quarantine reimposed at the last minute – forcing thousands of Brits to isolate for two weeks without Statutory Sick Pay.
People in self-isolation can get the £95-a-week sick pay rate, but not if they’re quarantining because they’ve returned from overseas.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said even for those who can get sick pay while isolating, the rate must be much higher.
She said of today’s changes: “We all want to reduce the spread of Covid-19. But the government’s plan to extend self-isolation has a huge flaw.
“Asking people to self-isolate is not going to work if they are plunged into financial hardship.
“Ministers must raise statutory sick pay from £95 per week to at least the level of the real living wage of £320. And ensure that everyone is eligible for it.”
Separately, ministers are looking at whether to shorten the two-week quarantine period in which people must isolate when coming to the UK from overseas.
There is now speculation it could be aligned with the new 10-day period for self-isolation – if people get a test and it comes back negative.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “We are working on whether, by testing people during that quarantine, it is safe to then be able to release them earlier.
“That’s something we are working on, but we are not imminently making an announcement on it because that work is not concluded.”
The change to the seven-day rule alters guidance that has been in place since the start of the pandemic.
It could prompt accusations that the previous rules allowed coronavirus to spread once people thought it was safe to go back outside.
A joint statement by the four chief medical officers said today: “In symptomatic people Covid-19 is most infectious just before, and for the first few days after, symptoms begin.
“It is very important people with symptoms self-isolate and get a test, which will allow contact tracing.
“Evidence, although still limited, has strengthened and shows that people with Covid who are mildly ill and are recovering have a low but real possibility of infectiousness between 7 and 9 days after illness onset.
“We have considered how best to target interventions to reduce risk to the general population and consider that at this point in the epidemic, with widespread and rapid testing available and considering the relaxation of other measures, it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result.
“This 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.”
News – Coronavirus self-isolation time officially extended from 7 to 10 days from today