Business and health leaders urge Government to stop 10-day isolation that is paralysing the economy 

Date:

Covid isolation rules must be relaxed to stop Britain grinding to a halt, health experts and business chiefs said last night.

They warned the ten-day rule was ‘lockdown by stealth’ – keeping people at home even when their symptoms and infectiousness had eased.

Leading doctors suggested that quarantine could be ended early for those who test negative for at least two days in a row.

Daily virus cases hit a record 93,000 yesterday and are expected to go much higher – raising fears that self-isolation will cause chaos to schools, hospitals and the economy.

It is not yet known whether Omicron – the Covid variant driving the surge – is milder. However, victims recover faster and may become less infectious just three to five days after a positive test, according to evidence from South Africa.

‘People are most infectious in the first five days, after which time infectiousness falls,’ said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

‘Some people are no longer infectious after three days and it makes no sense to keep them locked up.

‘Isolating people for ten days when they are no longer infectious will harm the economy and leave vital public services, such as the NHS, short-staffed. People could perhaps take a daily lateral flow test and be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative for two days in a row.’

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, added: ‘Safely reducing the quarantine period from ten days could increase compliance, improve staffing in healthcare and benefit the economy.

‘Confirmed cases may take a daily lateral flow test and be allowed to leave after having three negatives in a row, or take one PCR after five days.’

The calls came as:

  • The NHS revealed it gave a record 861,306 booster vaccine doses on Thursday;
  • Downing Street announced a Cobra meeting, triggering speculation of more restrictions before Christmas;
  • The Welsh government announced it would shut nightclubs from December 27 and bring back two-metre social distancing in offices;
  • Ireland is to impose an 8pm curfew for hospitality venues;
  • Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London Covid modelling expert, claimed up to 5,000 deaths a day could be caused by Omicron this winter;
  • But the latest official figures showed that there are only 65 patients in hospital with it;
  • New figures showed fewer people have died or been hospitalised with Omicron in South Africa despite record cases there;
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak flew back from California for emergency talks with hospitality bosses on financial help;
  • Racecourses, Christmas markets and football stadiums will be among 3,000 sites used as jab centres this weekend;
  • Vaccine shortages forced pharmacies to cancel booster appointments yesterday;
  • Care homes were warned they must allow residents to see relatives over Christmas;
  • Estimates that Omicron cases were doubling every two days have been downgraded because people are behaving more cautiously
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COVENT GARDEN… Left: 2019. Right: Today. The popular central London jaunt was quiet on Friday afternoon amid surging Covid cases

2019
Today

WESTFIELD… Left: 2019. Right: Today. The sprawling London shopping centre was dead on Friday despite being the run up to Christmas

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A shopping street in Gloucester. Retailers face an uncertain Christmas as people choose to stay at home during the latest wave of Covid 19 infections

Gloucester Quays pictured today. Lots of people are deciding to stay away from pubs and restaurants to avoid catching Covid before Christmas

Gloucester Quays pictured today. Lots of people are deciding to stay away from pubs and restaurants to avoid catching Covid before Christmas

Gloucester Quays pictured today. Lots of people are deciding to stay away from pubs and restaurants to avoid catching Covid before Christmas 

There were slightly more shoppers out and about in Manchester today - with many of them wearing face masks

There were slightly more shoppers out and about in Manchester today - with many of them wearing face masks

There were slightly more shoppers out and about in Manchester today – with many of them wearing face masks 

A busy outdoor market in Bristol. Business leaders have warned about the damaging impact of a fall in high street footfall

A busy outdoor market in Bristol. Business leaders have warned about the damaging impact of a fall in high street footfall

A busy outdoor market in Bristol. Business leaders have warned about the damaging impact of a fall in high street footfall 

Boris Johnson was today urged to relax the 10-day quarantine rule for positive cases in favour of a test and release scheme to stop Omicron

Boris Johnson was today urged to relax the 10-day quarantine rule for positive cases in favour of a test and release scheme to stop Omicron

Boris Johnson was today urged to relax the 10-day quarantine rule for positive cases in favour of a test and release scheme to stop Omicron ‘disabling everything’

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A rammed Covent Garden in London in 2019 (November) and the same spot almost empty of visitors in a picture taken yesterday, when it should have been even more busy due to Christmas 

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An empty Westfield shopping centre in London today and during the Black Friday sales in November 2019 

Britain

Britain

Britain’s daily Covid cases have rocketed to record levels for the third day in a row with 93,000 people diagnosed in 24 hours

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Covid hospital admissions have spiked by more than a third in a week in Britain

Covid hospital admissions have spiked by more than a third in a week in Britain

Covid hospital admissions have spiked by more than a third in a week in Britain’s Omicron hotspot of London, official data shows 

Is it REALLY safe to cut the 10-day quarantine? 

How long are people infectious for?

Britain’s Covid’s self-isolation sentence could be halved to just five days, some academics have argued.

Data suggests roughly 98 per cent of virus transmission occurs either before people become ill, or within five days of symptoms starting. 

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Dr Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert from the University of St Andrews, said earlier this year: ‘Given most transmission happens very early on, the isolation period could be much shorter for the cases.

‘Viral load peaks pretty quickly, so people are highly infectious within the first few days.’ 

How long can Covid patients test positive for?

Lateral flow tests, which offer results in as little as 15 minutes, work best for sniffing out the people who are most infectious. 

They look for viral proteins called antigens in samples taken from the nose and throat.

But the kits are less sensitive than gold-standard PCRs, which sees swabs sent off to laboratories to be analysed for viral genetic material. 

It means they are less likely to spot someone when they are infected, but also less likely to give a positive result when someone has gone past their peak infectiousness and have a lower viral load.

PCRs, on the other hand, are extremely sensitive and can pick up the presence of viral fragments long after the illness has cleared.

For this reason, a positive PCR result does not always mean someone is still contagious. 

On Friday, the Fire Brigade Union said Covid cases have been ‘skyrocketing’ in the London service, claiming that almost 10 per cent of operational firefighters have either tested positive or are self-isolating.

Meanwhile, some pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers.

Self-isolation – from the point of infection or a positive test – was initially one week until it was extended to ten days in July 2020. 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory party leader, said the lower figure could be reinstated: ‘This variant is not as fierce, and we have vaccines in play, so there is a very good argument for shortening the time that people have to self-isolate for.’

Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London restaurant group, said: ‘The period of isolation should certainly be reviewed in the context of Omicron causing a milder and more short-lived illness than Delta.’

Jonathan Neame of Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer, said: ‘Once we are past Christmas, and assuming no material change in deaths and hospitalisations, I would call for all restrictions to be lifted and encourage people to get boosted if they have not already. Quarantine should be cut or removed altogether.’ 

Around 12,000 NHS workers were off sick or isolating because of Covid on any one day last week and more than one in 20 primary pupils were testing positive.

Doctors and nurses were required to stay away from wards for ten days if someone they lived with tested positive for the virus, regardless of whether or not they were fully vaccinated.

It was different to the rules issued at the same time for the rest of the nation in August, which meant that double-jabbed people did not have to self-quarantine if someone in their household caught the virus. Officials wanted to protect vulnerable patients in hospital.

But updated guidance sent out to NHS chiefs yesterday saw the household rule quietly scrapped. Workers should return as soon as they get a negative PCR test result, so long as they have had two vaccines. They must then take daily lateral flow swabs before turning up for their shift.

It comes amid fears the NHS will be crippled by the incoming Omicron wave, with Government advisers warning of upwards of 4,000 daily hospitalisations — mirroring levels seen virus earlier this year when the health service was ravaged by Britain’s second wave.

At a press conference this afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon warned essential services could come under threat due to the number of people off work and suggested more restrictions may be needed to stop this from happening.

An analysis of official figures suggests Britain could reach up to 460,000 daily cases by Christmas Eve — forcing 2million people into isolation — if Omicron infections continue to increase as quickly as some scientists expect.

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing huge disruption to businesses and threatening services including the NHS, police and national grid. 

Yesterday, a public health expert and business leader suggested staffing pressures could be eased by revisiting the current rules that require everyone who tests positive for Covid to isolate for a full 10 days.

Asked if the 10-day isolation period should be scrapped and changed to a test and release style scheme, Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘I think so.

‘The other big concern on top of rising cases and hospitalisations is that we could end up with so many people isolating at once we could run into some serious staffing issues in vital services.’

He suggested reducing the mandatory isolation period to five days and then making people take daily lateral flows.

‘Most people are not infectious for as long as 10 days, most are over their infectiousness by day five.

‘Omicron is spreading so widely now that there’s actually very little we can do to stop it at this point, but it’s crucial we keep society going.

‘Anything that reduces the harm on society and the economy without putting infected people into situations where they can infect even more people is a plus.’

Luke Johnson, a serial entrepreneur and chairman of The Bread Factory, said many businesses he has been in contact with had more than 10% of the workforce in isolation.

‘This means the economy and indeed the NHS risks grinding to a halt very soon,’ he told MailOnline. ‘The vast majority of those isolating aren’t sick and most with symptoms say it feels like a cold.

‘Ten days in isolation is too long. The tests are flawed, and asymptomatic spread is unproven.’

He added: ‘We are in grave danger of disabling everything – transport, supermarkets, food supply, hospitals etc if we persist with the 10 day rules for those who test positive or have been in contact with them.

‘We need to dramatically reduce the isolation period and allow release once tested negative. And if we decide that Omicron is much milder, then all isolation rules should be scrapped.’

Today, ‘California Chancellor’ Rishi Sunak has been pictured arriving back in the UK for crunch talks with furious hospitality bosses struggling with plummeting demand due to the Omicron mutant strain. 

Mr Sunak had been in the US on a ‘long-planned’ Government trip to meet tech bosses but his timing has attracted criticism, with one top British executive telling the FT that he was too busy drinking ‘organic kale smoothies’.

Pictures from town centres last night and today showed people are continuing to stay away from town centres at what should be a peak time for businesses amid mounting fears over the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, the congestion level reported by TomTom in London at 8am was 40 per cent –  the lowest level all week. 

Traffic levels at the same period today were 33 per cent in Birmingham, 36 per cent in Manchester, 40 per cent in Liverpool, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle.

Mr Sunak met hospitality leaders yesterday via Zoom but had to miss one roundtable event because it clashed with a scheduled call with US healthcare bosses.  

Bosses are demanding the Government bring forward fresh financial support after the spread of the variant and the latest Covid advice to be cautious ahead of Christmas prompted a wave of booking cancellations. Industry leaders expect the final total to hit £4billion of lost takings. 

Mr Sunak told CNN he is holding in-person talks today after cutting short his visit. ‘I understand this is a concerning time for business leaders across the country,’ he said. 

‘I’ve been in touch with industry business leaders and it’s why I’ve curtailed my trip and will be leaving earlier tonight.’

The Chancellor insisted ministers were not telling people to cancel their Christmas events, adding: ‘The situation is very different to what we’ve done and encountered before. 

‘We’re not telling people to cancel things, we’re not closing down businesses.’ 

The hospitality sector is demanding the Government bring forward fresh financial support after the spread of the variant and the latest Covid advice to be cautious ahead of Christmas prompted a wave of booking cancellations. 

Bosses expect the final total to hit £4billion of lost takings. 

But Mr Sunak insisted ministers were already helping, telling the BBC: ‘Until spring next year most businesses are only paying a quarter of their business rates bill, they are benefitting from a reduced rate of VAT all the way through to next spring, and thirdly there is about a quarter of a billion pounds of cash sitting with local authorities to support those businesses.’ 

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

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Few people were pictured dining late into the December night in London on Friday evening after the UK recorded a record-breaking number of new daily cases

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Once-bustling streets in London

Once-bustling streets in London

Once-bustling streets in London’s Soho district (above) were sparsely populated on Friday evening amid Omicron fears

Shoppers out in Manchester this afternoon, with armed police mingling with them during a patrol

Shoppers out in Manchester this afternoon, with armed police mingling with them during a patrol

Shoppers out in Manchester this afternoon, with armed police mingling with them during a patrol 

Industry experts fear the Government

Industry experts fear the Government

Industry experts fear the Government’s increasingly alarmist messages surrounding the Omicron mutant strain are affecting customer confidence over what should be a peak period for pubs, bars and restaurants. Pictured: A quiet Soho on Friday

This restaurant in Newcastle had swathes of empty tables - while only a few revellers were out and about in bars

This restaurant in Newcastle had swathes of empty tables - while only a few revellers were out and about in bars

This restaurant in Newcastle had swathes of empty tables – while only a few revellers were out and about in bars 

Three women dressed as Santa Claus enjoyed a night out in Newcastle city centre yesterday - which was far quieter than usual

Three women dressed as Santa Claus enjoyed a night out in Newcastle city centre yesterday - which was far quieter than usual

Three women dressed as Santa Claus enjoyed a night out in Newcastle city centre yesterday – which was far quieter than usual 

Some bars in Newcastle managed to attract queues. However, it was still quiet for the time of the year - usually one of the busiest

Some bars in Newcastle managed to attract queues. However, it was still quiet for the time of the year - usually one of the busiest

Some bars in Newcastle managed to attract queues. However, it was still quiet for the time of the year – usually one of the busiest 

An empty platform at London Bridge underground station this morning after commuters were asked to work from home

An empty platform at London Bridge underground station this morning after commuters were asked to work from home

An empty platform at London Bridge underground station this morning after commuters were asked to work from home  

An empty escalator at London Bridge today. The fall  in passenger numbers will be another blow for Transport for London, which is struggling with record debt

An empty escalator at London Bridge today. The fall  in passenger numbers will be another blow for Transport for London, which is struggling with record debt

An empty escalator at London Bridge today. The fall  in passenger numbers will be another blow for Transport for London, which is struggling with record debt 

LONDON: English cities were eerily quiet this morning too as commuters continued to stay away. The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital at 8am was 40 per cent – the lowest level all week

LONDON: English cities were eerily quiet this morning too as commuters continued to stay away. The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital at 8am was 40 per cent – the lowest level all week

LONDON: English cities were eerily quiet this morning too as commuters continued to stay away. The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital at 8am was 40 per cent – the lowest level all week

LIVERPOOL: Traffic levels at the same period today were 40 per cent in Liverpool (pictured),  33 per cent in Birmingham , 36 per cent in Manchester, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle

LIVERPOOL: Traffic levels at the same period today were 40 per cent in Liverpool (pictured),  33 per cent in Birmingham , 36 per cent in Manchester, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle

LIVERPOOL: Traffic levels at the same period today were 40 per cent in Liverpool (pictured),  33 per cent in Birmingham , 36 per cent in Manchester, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle

Retail sales accelerated in November… but is there an Omicron crash coming? 

UK retail sales picked up pace in November as shoppers hit the high street for early Christmas shopping and Black Friday, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes increased by 1.4% for the month, accelerating from a 0.8% increase in October.

The reading was better than expected, with analysts having forecast that growth would remain steady at 0.8%. The ONS said sales volumes across the sector were now 7.2% higher than their pre-pandemic levels from February 2020.

November was boosted by non-food sales in stores, which lifted by 2% for the month. It highlighted that this was particularly boosted by 2.9% growth in sales at clothing stores, which saw sales surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS, said: ‘Retail sales picked up in November, boosted by strong Black Friday and pre-Christmas trading. Clothing stores fared particularly well and have exceeded their pre-pandemic level for the first time.’

Pubs and restaurants have now started closing early for Christmas after they were hit by a ‘double whammy’ of staff absences and plummeting consumer confidence.

Some restaurants said they had ‘no option’ but to shut because so many of their staff have caught coronavirus and have had to isolate amid fears the problem will worsen as the ‘tidal wave’ of infections surges across the country.

Mr Sunak and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke held calls yesterday with firms including Prezzo, Black Sheep Brewery, Nando’s, Greene King, Whitbread and Adnams.

Labour has called on the Government to announce a new support package for the sector but ministers are yet to commit to providing any extra cash.

It is feared that the UK could be recording hundreds of thousands of daily Covid cases by Christmas Eve as Omicron continues to surge.

That could force millions of Brits into isolation, potentially causing huge disruption to the workforce and to key industries.  

The hospitality industry has accused Boris Johnson of imposing a ‘lockdown by stealth’ after Professor Chris Whitty urged people to limit socialising in the coming days.    

Mr Johnson denied the claim yesterday, telling reporters: ‘We’re not saying that we want to cancel stuff, we’re not locking stuff down, and the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted.’

Some small pubs and restaurants are deciding it is better to shut than stay open, either because lots of their staff have contracted Covid and are not available, or because nearly all their bookings have been cancelled. However, most venues remain open and very few big chains have shut. 

Yesterday, society favourite Evelyn’s Table in London’s Soho put its closure down to ‘members of our core team having to isolate’. 

A group of friends posing for the camera in Newcastle. Bars and restaurants are smarting from lower than normal demand

A group of friends posing for the camera in Newcastle. Bars and restaurants are smarting from lower than normal demand

A group of friends posing for the camera in Newcastle. Bars and restaurants are smarting from lower than normal demand 

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Barrafina Drury Lane in Covent Garden said ‘staff members isolating makes the services non-viable’, while Kol in London’s Marylebone said that it had ‘no option’ but to temporarily close while ‘key team members isolate’.

Darjeeling Express near Leicester Square reported a ‘double whammy of staff sickness combined with huge cancellations of groups’, while Blend Kitchen in Sheffield said it had seen a 50 per cent fall in bookings. 

After daily virus cases surged to a record 88,376 with 146 deaths yesterday, British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith warned: ‘With the UK recording its highest ever number of Covid cases in a single day, and this being set to rise further in the coming days and weeks, businesses now face the two-punch combination of serious issues with staff absence and plummeting consumer confidence.’

Britain could reach up to 460,000 daily Covid cases by Christmas Eve – forcing two million people into isolation – if infections continue to increase as quickly as some scientists expect. Such huge numbers could cause massive disruption to key services from people being off work. 

While government contingency plans call for the military to be called in to cover gaps in services such as the NHS, police, Border Force and energy workers if they are hit by huge shortages, they are untested in the real world. Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital Trust in London said 10 per cent of its staff are currently off due to Covid. 

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If the number of people testing positive doubles every three days, then there would be 463,704 daily cases on Christmas Eve. That would force the 1.9million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population

If the number of people testing positive doubles every three days, then there would be 463,704 daily cases on Christmas Eve. That would force the 1.9million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population

If the number of people testing positive doubles every three days, then there would be 463,704 daily cases on Christmas Eve. That would force the 1.9million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population 

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing ‘huge disruption from people being off work’ and threatening key services including the NHS and police, experts claimed. Graph shows: The number of NHS staff off work with Covid every day over the last two weeks. Dips on December 5 and 12 occurred on Sundays, when fewer staff are working and therefore less absences are expected. Figures are expected to increase in the coming weeks

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Business and health leaders urge Government to stop 10-day isolation that is paralysing the economy  Source link Business and health leaders urge Government to stop 10-day isolation that is paralysing the economy 

The post Business and health leaders urge Government to stop 10-day isolation that is paralysing the economy  appeared first on California News Times.

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