Omicron: Boris Johnson avoids new calls to cut self-isolation for NHS workers

NHS ‘is on its knees’ says Dr Sarah Jarvis

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Despite self-isolation being reduced to seven days from ten last week, absences are still rising dramatically within the NHS as more staff test positive. Around 38 percent of NHS employees were absent in the week up to December 23.

The total number of health workers self-isolating in England has risen from 12,240 to 18,820 in a week.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, suggested the worst scenario for the NHS might not be too many patients but being short-staffed.

He said: “Many chief executives are saying that, on current evidence, they think Omicron related staff absences may be a greater challenge than the number of Omicron related severely ill patients they have to treat.”

Hence, scientists, health professionals, and several Tory MPs have advocated for a cut of the self-isolation policy from seven to five days, just like in the US.

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cut down the self-isolation period from ten to five days for all asymptomatic Americans who test positive for Covid.

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, suggested that shortly, COVID-19 will have to be considered as “just another cause of the common cold.”

He told the BBC: “We’re going to have to let people who are positive go about their normal lives as they would do with any other cold.

“I think the whole issue of how long are we going to be able to allow people to self-isolate if they’re positive is going to have to be discussed fairly soon because I think this is a disease that’s not going away.”

Other scientists such as Professor Tim Spector, head of King’s College London’s Zoe Covid symptoms study, suggested that a cut to five days would help “protect the economy.”

However, the British Government is reportedly waiting for more information regarding the recent reduction in the UK.

Chloe Smith, the minister of state for disabled people, told Times Radio: “I appreciate that, for example, America is looking at this at the moment.

“We’ve only recently cut the self-isolation period from ten until seven.

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“We did that under medical advice.

“We want to see how that goes.

“We don’t have current plans to change from seven days.”

A government spokeswoman confirmed: “Anyone who takes a negative lateral flow test on days six and seven of their self-isolation period can end their isolation early, following analysis by the UK Health Security Agency that this has a similar protective effect to a ten-day isolation without lateral flow testing.”

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