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UK Government moves to scrap ten day quarantine for Covid contacts who are fully vaccinated

Under the plan, the ten day quarantine period could be axed in favour of daily lateral flow tests.

UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock
UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock
Image: PA

MATT HANCOCK HAS said he plans to scrap the requirement for people who have had two Covid-19 jabs and come into contact with an infected person to isolate for ten days.

The UK Health Secretary said the approach is currently being piloted but will be introduced as soon as possible once clinicians have looked at the data.

It came as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the 19 July date for easing the final restrictions in England is “looking good”, when asked if he would rule out further lockdowns this winter.

embedded260490336 Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the July 19 date for easing the final restrictions in England is ‘looking good’ Source: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA

“You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven’t budgeted for, or accounted for,” he told reporters during a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire.

“But looking at where we are, looking at the efficacy of the vaccines against all variants that we can currently see… I think it’s looking good for 19 July to be that terminus point.”

Under the plan to revise quarantine restrictions, the ten day isolation period could be axed in favour of daily lateral flow tests.

Hancock told BBC Breakfast the approach is being piloted “to check that that will be effective, but it is something that we’re working on”.

He added: “We’re not ready to be able to take that step yet, but it’s something that I want to see and we will introduce, subject to clinical advice, as soon as it’s reasonable to do so.”

health-coronavirus Source: PA Graphics

Asked whether the remaining restrictions are likely to be lifted before the new England road map date of 19 July, Hancock said experts will examine the figures shortly.

He said: “We are looking at the data, and we’ve said that we’ll take a specific look two weeks into the four-week delay that we had to put in place to get more people vaccinated, so we’ll do that.

“But I have every confidence that the more people get vaccinated, the easier it is [and] the safer it is to lift restrictions.

“We had to have the delay in order to get more people vaccinated, especially those second vaccines to protect people, we’re being careful, we’re being cautious.

“But I have a high degree of confidence that this vaccine is going to get us out of this, and the more people who come forward, the easier that will be.”

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health-coronavirus Source: PA Graphics

Turning to NHS waiting times, Hancock said there is a “big and challenging backlog that has been caused by the pandemic” and suggested it could take up to a few years to clear.

He said there are currently 5.1 million people on the waiting list, “but there’s also millions of people who haven’t come forward with a condition that… might have been niggling rather than acutely serious, and they’ve been waiting until the NHS is in a better position to be able to come forward. And so we do expect that number to rise.”

Asked about comments made by one medic that it will take the NHS five to tenyears to get back to normal, Hancock said: “I think we can sort it faster.”

He added: “We’ve been able to make progress against those longest of waits, but this is going to be a big effort, certainly for months, maybe for a couple of years, but we’re determined to sort it faster than that timeframe set out by the orthopaedic consultant in Coventry.”

Elsewhere, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it is “unlikely” that coronavirus restrictions in England will be lifted before 19 July.

He told Sky News he does not expect the two-week review to lead to an earlier relaxation of the current measures.

“I would always err on the side of caution and I would look to 19 July,” he said. “It could be before but I think that is unlikely. Generally we have stuck to the dates we have set. I think now I am very focused on 19 July.”

Johnson had originally set today for the end of all legal coronavirus restrictions under his road map to ease England’s lockdown, but delayed so-called Freedom Day until 19 July because of concerns over the rapidly-spreading Delta variant first identified in India.

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