Self-isolation period ‘to be cut after row between Whitty and Cummings’

The reduction will be made possible by rapid mass testing (Picture: AP/Rex/Getty)

The Government is reportedly preparing to slash the coronavirus self-isolation period from two weeks to 10 days amid concerns about compliance.

The reduction will be made possible by rapid mass testing, which is currently on trial in Liverpool but is set to be expanded to 66 more areas.

It comes after research showed only 11% of people who had come into contact with someone testing positive for Covid-19 stuck to the quarantine rules, sparking fears among ministers that the policy is counterproductive.

Downing Street is said to have hammered out a compromise on the length of the isolation period after plans proposed by Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings were rejected by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

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Cummings is understood to have wanted the quarantine period to be cut to seven days, with the goal of scrapping it entirely by offering tests every two days to everyone who has come into contact with an infected person.

Whitty is said to have been implacably opposed on public health grounds, arguing that the incubation period for the virus was too long to allow immediate testing and the rapid tests would fail to detect every infected person, according to The Guardian.

Members of the public queue for a rapid coronavirus test in Liverpool (Picture: AFP)

A source told the newspaper that the proposal to test after eight days, with permission to leave the house on the 10th day, was ‘cooked up’ as a compromise to placate Cummings.

The chief aide came under fire for taking a trip to Durham in March when his wife had coronavirus symptoms. Critics say the Government’s defence of the scandal has reduced public compliance with the lockdown restrictions.

Some senior figures fear self-isolation rates won’t improve unless the length of time can be reduced by expanding testing capacity.

Mass testing began in Liverpool last Friday with the goal of testing 50,000 people a day once it is fully operational. 

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The tests can provide results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab.

The plans are part of the Government’s ‘Operation Moonshoot’ which aims to bring the country out of the second lockdown by identifying more cases of the virus and getting people to self-isolate. 

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the scheme would be piloted in 66 more areas.

However, some scientists have raised concerns after one of the rapid tests proposed for use in Liverpool was found to have identified less than half of positive cases during earlier studies. 

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Self-isolation is a vital tool in our fight to suppress the virus, so work is ongoing on options to increase the number of people doing so, including reviewing the self-isolation time period.’

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