The government has today issued new rules on how long people with Covid need to isolate for.
From April 1, anyone with a positive Covid test result is advised to ‘try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days’.
For children and young people aged 18 and under, the guidance is three days.
The move comes as free lateral flow tests are being scrapped in England under the Prime Minister’s ‘living with Covid’ plan.
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Health leaders in Greater Manchester have already warned that without tests, parents will find it ‘nigh on impossible’ to know whether their children have the virus.
And there are concerns that some children are being sent to school regardless of symptoms, risking a surge in infection rates.
Now questions are being asked about the short isolation period, with some saying the three-day rule for children seems to have ‘been plucked out of thin air’.
Clinical epidemiologist Dr Deepti Gurdasani Tweeted: “This is among the most unscientific guidance I’ve seen – those under 18 with a *positive COVID-19 test* are recommended to isolate for *just 3 days*. This will just fuel more transmission & will ultimately increase educational disruption and impact health.”
While regular asymptomatic testing in mainstream settings hasn’t been recommended since February, many schools have still been asking students and staff to test when they can.
And it’s cases among staff in particular that have caused disruption this term, with some schools having to keep whole year groups off for remote learning because there simply aren’t enough teachers left.
But now the government says pupils and staff do not need to routinely test at all.
Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “As we learn to live with Covid, we are focusing our testing provision on those at higher risk of serious outcomes from the virus, while encouraging people to keep following simple steps to help keep themselves and others safe.”
The guidance from the Department for Education says: “Following expert advice, we now know that Covid presents a low risk of serious illness to most children and young people, and most of those who are fully vaccinated.
“Due to high immunity in society, a greater understanding of the virus and improved understanding of treatments, we can now focus on how we live with Covid-19.
“That means we don’t expect pupils or staff in education settings to routinely test themselves for Covid-19.
“Outbreak testing will be available in residential SEND settings where it is advised by the local health protection team, especially to counteract the risk of closure due to staff absence.”
Dr Helen Wall, senior responsible officer for Bolton’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, says that without the tests, parents will have to use their own judgment and play it safe to avoid spreading the virus to vulnerable groups.
She said: “As I’ve said it’s going to be tough if not impossible to know what’s Covid and what isn’t. My advice can therefore only be what I’ll be adopting with my own three children, which is if there are any such symptoms – test if available, if not keep away from elderly and immunocompromised until they’re better.”
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