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Matt Hancock has hinted that the self-isolation period could be extended for people with coronavirus symptoms, as he warned a “second wave” of cases is “starting to roll across Europe”.
Asked to confirm reports that the self-isolation period will be extended from seven to 10 days, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “This is a decision which is clinically led. The chief medical officer will be setting out details later today.
“I can’t steal his thunder but what I will say is we will always do what is necessary to protect people and we are guided by the clinical judgements and science in this.”
As fears of a second spike in cases mount among health leaders, the Health Secretary also said there was a “serious concern” about a rising number of positive cases in nearby countries.
“There is a serious concern about a second wave which is clearly now moving across Europe and we need to take action to protect this country and the people in it,” Mr Hancock said.
He added: “I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores and to tackle it.
“The measures that the chief medical officer will set out later are part of that but so too are the measures we’re taking, for instance to ensure that we don’t directly bring cases back to this country where there’s a big spike in cases.
“So absolutely on a second wave it is something I worry about and I worry about it because we can see it happening.”
The Health Secretary also said ministers were investigating ways to reduce the 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals to the UK from at-risk countries.
According to reports this week, returned travellers would need to quarantine for eight days before being tested, and then only remain in quarantine for another two days should they test negative.
Asked about the reports, Mr Hancock said: “We’re always looking at how we can have the least-possible burden of the measures that we have to put into place so that is something on which we’re doing some work but we’ll only come forward with a proposal when we’re confident that it is safe to do so.
“So again this is very much guided by the clinical science and the CMO (chief medical officer) will be speaking on it later today, but the broader point is that there’s a serious concern about a second wave that’s clearly now moving across Europe and we need to take action.
“If that means increasing the number of days that people who test positive have to self-isolate then so be it because these measures are necessary to keep people safe.”
But Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast that the Government was “not ready to make changes” on the length of the quarantine period.
“We are not imminently making an announcement on it because that work is not concluded,” Mr Hancock confirmed.
“Until it is absolutely safe to make that sort of change, we won’t do so. But it is something we are working on.”
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News – Hancock hints at self-isolation change as he raises second wave fears