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UK cuts Covid isolation period to 7 days as Johnson says no more restrictions before Christmas

The rule change will allow thousands of people to see their families in time for Christmas.

Image: PA

THE UK HAS cut the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who have coronavirus to a week as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reassured the public that Christmas will be able to go ahead without further restrictions.

From today, those who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period, and are vaccinated, will no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

The rule change may help thousands of people see their families in time for Christmas.

It came after Johnson said “continuing uncertainty” about the severity of the Omicron variant and hospital admission rates means he does not believe there is enough evidence at the moment to justify stricter measures.

However, he stressed the situation remains “finely balanced” and did not rule out introducing stricter measures soon after Christmas.

In a video message, the UK Prime Minister said: “There is no doubt that Omicron continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“The situation remains extremely difficult but I also recognise that people have been waiting to hear whether their Christmas plans are going to be affected.

“So what I can say tonight is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.”

Figures from NHS England show that 1,904 people were in hospital in London with Covid-19 as of 21 December, the highest number since 2 March and is up 41% from a week earlier.

Across England, 6,902 patients were in hospital with Covid-19 on December 21 – the highest number since November 10 and up 7% week-on-week.

Johnson added: “We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.

“What this means is that people can go ahead with their Christmas plans, but the situation remains finely balanced and I would urge everyone to exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves and your loved ones, especially the vulnerable.

“And remember to keep following the guidance – wear a mask indoors when required to do so, keep fresh air circulating, and take a test before you visit elderly or vulnerable relatives.”

In Wales, more Covid restrictions are expected to be announced today as the Welsh Government meets to discuss hospitality measures.

The Northern Ireland executive will also decide on the same day what “level of asks” will be made of the public to curb the latest surge in Covid-19.

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On self-isolation for Covid cases being cut to seven days, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid noted ministers “want to reduce the disruption from Covid-19 to people’s everyday lives”.

He went on: “Following advice from our clinical experts we are reducing the self-isolation period from 10 days to seven if you test negative on a lateral flow test for two days running.

“It’s vital people keep playing their part by testing regularly and isolating if they test positive. And I urge you to get boosted now to protect yourself and those around you.”

Speaking to BBC News, Javid described the decision as a “sensible way forward”.

He said: “I think this is a very sensible, balanced and proportionate take. It is great that when people do get infected that they are properly isolating, I think that clearly helps prevent infection.

“But it is important also to look at how we can have policies that can help to minimise that and this step, again informed by our clinicians, is a very sensible way forward.”

The green light to Christmas comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered a £1 billion support package to hospitality and leisure businesses hit by Covid restrictions amid concerns over the high transmission of Omicron.

The package includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities and to be available in the coming weeks.

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