One in seven could still be infectious after five-day Covid isolation

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One in seven people who have tested positive for Covid could still be infectious if released from isolation upon receiving a negative lateral flow result after five days, new data suggests.

Across the UK people are now allowed to leave self-isolation on day seven, provided they have had two negative lateral flow tests in the past 24 hours and do not have a fever.

However, the prime minister has indicated he is in favour of further reducing the quarantine time to five days, if backed by scientific evidence. Experts have cautioned there is presently little data to back the move.

According to work previously released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the proportion of people estimated to remain infectious five days after the onset of Covid symptoms, or a positive Covid test, is 31%. A small Japanese study has similarly suggested a substantial proportion of those infected with the Omicron variant remain infectious at five days.

New estimates, released by the UKHSA, have suggested the proportion may still remain high even if lateral flow tests are combined with at least five days of isolation.

According to a new report, which is not based on data specific to Omicron, a number of scenarios were modelled including five days of self-isolation followed by five lateral flow tests on days five to nine, with self-isolation ending after a single negative test result.

Photo – EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV

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