Watch: Sajid Javid announces COVID isolation period is cut to five full days
The self-isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 has been reduced to five full days, the health secretary has confirmed.
Sajid Javid announced the move on Thursday, after the government faced pressure to bring England in line with rules from the US, where isolation period has been cut to five days.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Javid said that "any curbs on our freedoms must be an absolute last resort", and added that latest studies have shown that after five days, two thirds of people are no longer infectious.
He added he wanted measures to "maximise activity in the economy" but at the same time "minimise the risk of infectious people leaving isolation".
But he ended his speech with a word of caution as the UK nears the end of its second year dealing with the pandemic.
“This virus is not going away, there will be more variants and no-one can be sure what threat they might pose," he told MPs.
“But we can be sure that our pharmaceutical defences, vaccines, testing and antivirals are the best way to protect our health and our freedoms as we learn to live with COVID.”
The changes — which will come into force on Monday — will allow people to leave self-isolation at the beginning of day six, with negative tests on days five and six.
Previous guidance requires positive cases to isolate for at least six full days after getting symptoms or having a positive test, but they can be released if they have a negative lateral flow result on days six and seven.
Welcoming the announcement, Labour’s Wes Streeting berated the health secretary for testing supply, saying it need to be “sorted out” if people needed to be tested to be released.
The shadow health secretary told MPs: “We welcome the announcement the secretary of state has made on the reduction of the COVID isolation period to five days on condition that two negative tests are produced, so let’s hope the secretary of state sorts out testing.
“Before Christmas he told use there was no issue with supply but over Christmas NHS staff and other key workers were unable to access tests because the government hadn’t noticed that the deliveries had shut up shop for Christmas.”
The announcement in the House of Commons then descended into a furious row after Javid accused Streeting of "not issuing one word of thanks" to the NHS staff and other key workers who have helped with the vaccination campaign.
In response to the comment, Streeting referred to the ongoing row regarding Boris Johnson's apology for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering while the nation was in lockdown.
He said: "The prime minister is not fit to lick the boots of NHS staff in this country."
Thursday's announcement comes as Boris Johnson clings to his position as prime minister over the 'partygate' scandal.
Johnson issued a grovelling apology in the Commons on Wednesday before prime minister's 1uestions, admitting he spent 25 minutes at the gathering in Downing Street in May 2020.
Despite his apology, he is facing increasing calls for his resignation – including from senior members within his own party.
Although some Cabinet ministers have jumped into action to defend Johnson, the late interventions of foreign secretary Liz Truss and chancellor Rishi Sunak – both tipped as potential successors – did little to instil confidence in his future.
Sunak had notably spent the day away from London on a visit in Devon.
Johnson is facing open revolt from one wing of his party, as MP for Moray and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called on him to quit.
He has reportedly been joined by all 31 Tory MSPs wanted the PM to resign.
In total, four Tory MPs — Sir Roger Gale, Caroline Nokes, William Wragg and Ross — have called for Johnson's dismissal.