Self-isolation ‘could be cut in half’: Only 2% of Covid transmission occurs after being sick for five days
Britain’s Covid patient’s sense of self-isolation could be halved to just five days, academics say.
Under current rules to prevent the spread of the virus, infected people must quarantine at home for 10 days.
But data suggests that 98 percent of transmission occurs before people get sick, or within five days after symptoms start.
Scientists believe the isolation period in the UK could be ‘much shorter’ for anyone who becomes infected.
Similar findings prompted No10 to amend the NHS app earlier this week, it was alleged.
The software — blamed for causing the “pingdemic” chaos — now tells people to go into quarantine only if they were in contact with an asymptomatically infected person two days before testing positive, instead of five.
England’s ‘pingdemic’ chaos is only getting worse
A record 1.5 million people were asked to self-isolate to curb the spread of the coronavirus for the week to July 21.
NHS figures show nearly 690,000 alerts were sent by the NHS app last week – the most since the voluntary software was introduced.
Another 536,000 people were reached by Test and Trace call-handlers and ordered to quarantine at home, while 308,000 were told to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid.
The devastating statistics come as Boris Johnson continues to face heavy criticism for refusing to lift isolation rules until August 16, despite lifting restrictions on “Freedom Day.”
Millions of workers have been unable to do their jobs because they have been told to isolate themselves, leaving supermarket shelves empty, pubs and restaurants closed and trains canceled across the country.
One of the government’s scientific advisers said the quarantine rules that fueled the pingdemic and caused “huge problems” for the economy, schools and everyday life are unnecessary and should have been scrapped six months ago.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick acknowledged the system is “frustrating” but urged people to continue to isolate if they are pinged.
New data from the Pathogen Dynamics Group at the University of Oxford shows that up to 40 percent of transmission occurs before symptoms appear.
But most of this happens during the two days before people get sick, leading to the change in the way the NHS Covid app works.
About 35 percent of transmission occurs within the first two days that people have symptoms.
However, the data came from September – before the highly contagious Delta variant took off.
Ministers are eager to replace quarantine rules with daily tests, with scientists now investigating whether it is safe to take the drastic step.
dr. Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St Andrews, told the… Telegraph: ‘Since most transfers happen very early, the isolation period for the cases could be much shorter.
‘Viral load peaks quite quickly, so people are very contagious in the first few days.
Also important is that many people have non-specific mild symptoms before they develop more noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue or muscle aches, so that’s probably when people are also highly contagious but continue their daily activities.
‘So the current guidelines for self-isolation, especially given the lack of support for absenteeism, are not for that.’
The decrease in transmission may also be due to symptomatic people who adhere to the rules of self-isolation.
But Dr Cevik was behind research last November that showed people were most contagious within the first five days of getting symptoms.
France, Germany and the US have already shortened their quarantine periods after reaching similar findings, with people in those countries in isolation for just five to seven days.
Anyone who breaks the UK’s 10-day insulation law could be fined up to £10,000. First-time offenders can be fined £1,000.
But the findings offer no hope of curbing the infected’s close contact self-isolation times.
This is because people are ‘pinged’ as soon as someone tests positive, meaning it can take several days for them to develop symptoms.
However, the latest figures from the Oxford scientists also showed that only 15 percent of people who ping tested positive for the virus.
It’s because 1.5 million self-isolation warnings were sent out last week, either via the NHS or because of a positive test result.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told the… Telegraph: ‘Having to be quarantined for a risk of one percent is marginal in my opinion – for every transmission of a case 100 people have to be quarantined.
“Given the state we are in now, the benefits of quarantine for relatively informal contact do not justify the negative impact in my opinion.
“But if you are positive, still in self-isolation and if you live with someone who is positive, still in quarantine.”
In an effort to solve the pingdemic chaos, ministers have already announced fully vaccinated people who are told by the app to self-isolate, otherwise Test and Trace will no longer have to do this from August 16.
But No10 is under pressure to push this date to the end of this week to align with Wales.
Supermarket shelves have been left empty as a result of the chaos, trains have been canceled due to staff shortages and one in ten cafes and restaurants have been forced to temporarily close.