UK Minister backs reduction of COVID isolation period to ease pressure on workforce

A worker crosses London Bridge, with Tower Bridge seen behind, during the morning rush hour, as UK government-imposed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown guidelines encourage working from home, in the City of London Financial District, London, Great Britain, January 4, 2022. REUTERS / Toby Melville

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  • Reduced isolation would help, says Zahawi
  • Teacher absences at 8.5% could increase further
  • Death toll exceeds 150,000

LONDON, Jan.9 (Reuters) – Reducing the self-isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 from seven to five days would help UK employers hard hit by absences, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday .

The Omicron variant is still spreading in Britain and many businesses, schools and hospitals are grappling with staff shortages, fueling calls for reduced isolation rules after a positive test.

Last month, U.S. health officials shortened the recommended isolation time for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to five days from the previous 10-day directive. Read more

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“I would obviously always defer to science advice on this. It would certainly help alleviate some of the pressures on schools, on essential labor and others,” Zahawi told Sky News after he was asked if he supported a passage to five days.

He said the UK Health Security Agency was reviewing the length of the isolation period and that the government was doing everything possible to ensure that the extended health service could operate during what he called “a few. difficult weeks “.

Teacher absences from schools stood at 8.5% and could rise further, he said, adding that his department was developing contingency plans for absenteeism of up to 25%, including asking retired teachers to help.

Britain’s official death toll from the pandemic on Saturday surpassed 150,000, following a record spate of cases caused by the Omicron variant, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to renew his call for people get vaccinated. Read more

But David Spiegelhalter, an expert in statistics, told Times Radio the level was exceeded in March 2021 when using a larger measure that records cases where COVID-19 appears on a death certificate and using this measure, the number now rises to over 173,000.

Looking ahead, Zahawi has said he hopes Britain will become one of the first countries to learn to “live with” COVID.

“I hope we will be one of the first major economies to show the world how you go from a pandemic to an endemic,” he said.

Zahawi, who was UK minister for vaccines before being appointed education secretary, said he failed to acknowledge a Sunday Times report that the government was planning to end the massive, free supply of tests lateral flow.

Reuters reported in October that the government was aiming to be prepared to start charging for some previously free COVID tests to try to limit spending. Read more

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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper Editing by Frances Kerry and Elaine Hardcastle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Edward L. Robinett