Europe

Covid bombshell: Cutting self-isolation by just two days could save UK economy £21m a day

Boris Johnson is looking at reducing the self-isolation period

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In the UK, people who test positive for coronavirus are required to self-isolate for seven days from the day symptoms begin. The self-isolation period has recently been reduced from ten days down to seven for fully vaccinated people, as long as they test negative on days six and seven. But those who are not fully vaccinated will still have to isolate for the full 10 days if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

The UKHSA is currently reviewing whether or not the isolation period should be cut down even further.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, the CEBR estimated that a further two-day cut in the isolation period could save the UK up to £21million per day, based on a 180,000 daily COVID-19 case rate.

The UK recorded 178,250 new coronavirus cases on Friday and a further 229 deaths.

Karl Thompson, an economist from the CEBR, estimated that seven days of isolation costs the UK economy £83million per day for every 200,000 cases.

This means the UK could save £24million for every 200,000 cases if we switched to the shorter isolation period, which would cost £59million per day.

The United States recently halved their recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic COVID-19 from ten days to 5, amid a surge in cases.

But the World Health Organisation has not yet changed its advice, still recommending that people with COVID-19 should isolate for 14 days.

This comes as the UK economy is being rocked by staff shortages, due to high numbers of people isolating as a result of the virus.

The CEBR previously estimated that staff shortages could cost the UK economy £35billion in January and February, equivalent to 8.8 percent of GDP.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that ministers are considering reducing the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who test positive.

When asked about the proposed changes, he said: “We’re looking at that.”

And speaking to reporters on a visit to a vaccination centre in Uxbridge, Mr Johnson said the Government “will act according to the science”.

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He said: “There’s a similar argument to be had about the quarantine period – whether to come down from seven days to five days.

“The thing to do is to look at the science. We are looking at that and we will act according to the science.”

Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi – who is also the former vaccines minister – said that cutting the Covid self-isolation period to five days could help with staff shortages.

But he also said it could cause a spike of the virus.

He explained: “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says that if you cut it down to below seven days, you might see a spike.

“But they’re going to review it.

“The reason I think it’s important that we keep it under review is because obviously, it would help with staff absenteeism, hence why, if the experts – and I have to defer to the UKHSA – deem it appropriate that you can have two negative tests on consecutive days, as we do now with days six and seven, then it’s a good thing to keep under review and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

The UKHSA estimates that 10-30 percent of people who self-isolate after a positive COVID-19 test are still infectious on day six, dropping to about 5 percent after day 10.

They have said there is a similar risk of being infectious if people end isolation after two negative tests on days six and seven.

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