Saturday, May 28, 2022

Isolating for 10 days after positive Covid tests ‘could be scrapped next year’

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Brits who test positive for Covid will 'no longer have to isolate for ten day' PA|EPA
Ministers have seen proposals to get rid of NHS Test and Trace and payments for low income families (Picture: PA/EPA)

The government is reportedly weighing up plans to scrap self-isolation, free Covid swabs and the NHS Test and Trace system.

Leaked proposals also reveal ministers could get rid of the £500 payment for people on low incomes who need to quarantine. 

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With vaccination levels high and the booster programme continuing, it appears ministers hope they will be able to start scaling back the expensive systems put in place to control Covid after winter.

The revelations come from a 160-page dossier of policy ideas which could be introduced after the winter leaked to the Mail on Sunday.

Entitled ‘Operation Rampdown’, the proposals are billed as the next step of ‘learning to live with Covid-19′.

The document warns the virus will remain at endemic levels for several years and that the emergence of a more deadly or transmissible strain remains a threat.

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But it also predicts the UK won’t see a repeat of the Christmas wave which ravaged the country last year.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media regarding the United Kingdom's Covid-19 infection rate and vaccination campaign at Downing Street Briefing Room on November 15, 2021 in London, England. The prime minister and his advisers encouraged Britons to receive their Covid-19 vaccine booster when eligible. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Despite warning about rising rates in mainland Europe, Boris Johnson is reportedly thinking about how to wind down the Covid-19 infrastructure next year (Picture: Getty)

The Test and Trace system was handed a £37bn budget over two years but the Treasury will hope to see that scaled back as vaccination coverage increases. 

Instead, the documents suggest testing support will be prioritised for vulnerable settings like care homes.

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Boris Johnson again repeated his assessment today that there is nothing in the data to suggest a move to Plan B measures is necessary despite gloomily predicting a new wave could be imported from Europe.

Under contingency plans set out earlier this year, the government retains the right to reinstate policies like compulsory mask-wearing and the use of vaccine passports. 

He added we ‘cannot rule anything out’ but predicted the booster programme and other pharmaceutical interventions will prevent the need for stricter measures.

But earlier in the day, he said ‘there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe…and we’ve just got to recognise that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder’.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: A woman receives her Covid-19 vaccination booster jab at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre on November 10, 2021 in the Stratford area of London, England. Over 10 million people have now received their Covid-19 vaccine boosters in the UK, as the government has allowed people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable to receive third jabs. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The government is extending the booster vaccine rollout to over-40s to drive up immunity this winter (Picture: Getty)

University College London professor and Independent Sage committee member Christina Pagel called the suggesting a wave can be imported ‘arrant nonsense’.

She tweeted: ‘We still have among highest covid rates in Europe. Their ‘wave’ is individual to each country’s combo of measures, vax & prev immunity.

‘Assuming no new variant, our winter Covid path depends on us & what WE choose to do as a country. Do not let the govt pretend otherwise.’

One sceptical source told the Mail the pandemic is ‘totally over in the mind of ministers’ and warned: ‘But what happens if a new variant arrives and they have just shut down the whole national infrastructure? 

‘Are we retaining enough knowledge from the £37 billion investment over the past two years? I really don’t think we are.’

Several European countries have reintroduced some lockdown measures in recent days, including the Netherlands and Austria.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock (12547510l) Passengers wearing masks at Waterloo station in the early morning rush hour. The government and NHS medical chiefs have encouraged people to wear face coverings to avoid a covid winter crisis and avoid putting strain on the National Health Service although due to the rise coronavirus infection rates hitting 44,000 cases a day and fears over the new Delta variant Government encourages people to wear masks to avoid a covid winter crisis, Waterloo, London, UK - 21 Oct 2021
The government is not planning on reintroducing measures like compulsory mask-wearing (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)

Professor Chris Whitty said a rethink on whether Plan B of the winter coronavirus plan would be needed if case numbers increased on the scale seen in Europe.

England’s chief medical officer said the numbers are ‘broadly flat’, adding: ‘There is substantial pressure on the NHS and that is widely recognised by everybody, ministers obviously included.

‘But in terms of the Covid numbers, they’re not currently going up in the kind of numbers you’re seeing in continental Europe, but obviously if they did that would be a situation where we would have to look again at what the situation is at that stage.’

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