Confusion reigned over Britain’s self-isolation rules today after Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon suggested England and Scotland could end up with different quarantine rules.
Downing Street this afternoon confirmed it is investigating whether the current rules that force those who come into contact with a coronavirus carrier to quarantine for 14 days could be relaxed.
But at her daily press conference today Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said that she had ‘no plans’ to alter the 14-day period, with her top medic suggesting there was currently no evidence to support it.
Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch said he was not aware of any scientific advice in any part of the UK that would support a reduction from the current 14-day period, or 10 days from the date a person’s symptoms end.
Mr Leitch said: ‘We have no plans with the present clinical advice to change that in any way.’
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘We have no plans at the moment to reduce the period of self-isolation. We keep all of this under review; we don’t want people to live under the most severe restrictions for longer than is absolutely necessary.’
Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said today that she had ‘no plans’ to alter the 14-day period, with her top medic suggesting there was currently no evidence to support it.
Matt Hancock (pictured right with chef Prue Leith on a visit to a hospital in Berkshire today) fuelled hopes that coronavirus self-isolation will be slashed to seven days – pointing out France already has a lower timescale
The Health Secretary insisted that the decision on whether to cut the quarantine period for those who come into contact with infected individuals from 14 days would be ‘entirely led by the clinical science’.
He played down the idea that the reduction was needed because Britons were flouting instructions from contact tracers to stay at home, praising testing tsar Baroness Harding despite Tory calls for her to quit.
But he said France had reduced the amount of time people have to isolate based on scientific guidance.
‘It isn’t about the compliance issue. It’s about the overall clinical judgment of what time is required for isolation,’ Mr Hanock told Sky News.
‘Obviously I’d rather have isolation as short as is reasonably possible because of the impact it has on people’s lives, but it must be safe.’
The government’s Covid-19 taskforce is understood to be considering slashing self-isolation for those who come into contact with infected individuals to between a week and 10 days.
Concerns have been rising that people are failing to cooperate with Test & Trace due to the prospect of a lengthy period unable to work or go out.
A spokesman stressed no decision had been made, amid reports it could be cut to 10 or even seven days amid evidence it is being widely flouted by weary Brits. (Boris Johnson pictured today at the Royal Berkshire Hospital)
The quarantine changes – which could come into force within weeks but would not apply to those who test positive for the disease – come amid Tory calls for Baroness Harding to quit. Sir Bernard Jenkin said this morning that the testing tsar should take a ‘well earned break’ so the service can ‘move up several gears’.
Boris Johnson admitted that the service needed to get better last week and is believed to have been infuriated by bungles with figures recently.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News that ‘no final decisions’ have been taken. ‘This is going to be scientifically led,’ he said.
There are also claims that City dealmakers, hedge fund managers and company bosses flying into the UK could be exempted from border quarantine rules to help boost ‘global Britain’ after Brexit.
But Mr Lewis played down the idea of high-flying executives being specifically let off quarantine. ‘Any changes that are made will apply to everybody,’ he said.
Test and Trace – headed by Conservative peer Lady Harding – last week hit a record low with just 59.6 per cent of the contacts of people who tested positive for the disease being successfully contacted and told to self-isolate.
Test and Trace – headed by the Conservative peer Baroness Harding (pictured) – last week hit a record low with just 59.6 per cent of the contacts of people who tested positive for the disease being successfully contacted and told to self-isolate
In a further sign of the unrest at Westminster, senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin launched a scathing attack on the performance of the system, saying public consent and co-operation was ‘breaking down’.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge show, Sir Bernard said Lady Harding had been a ‘tremendous asset’ but the reins should now be handed to a ‘very senior military person’ who could handle the logistics involved.
‘The Test & Trace operation clearly needs to move up several gears,’ he said.
Asked during interviews today whether Lady Harding was still the right person for the job, Mr Hancock replied: ‘Yes, of course.’
He said: ‘I look at the whole system and how it’s operating. It’s really easy to pick at one individual data point, but you have got to look at the system as a whole.
‘This is a system that’s expanding fast and is absolutely critical to helping reduce the spread of the virus.’