People who test positive for coronavirus or display some of the obvious symptoms must self-isolate or quarantine for a period of 10 days instead of just a week, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers announced in a guidance update on Thursday.
Until now, those displaying symptoms such as a new continuous cough, a temperature or loss of taste or smell were asked to self-isolate for seven days. That period has now been stipulated as 10 days, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance.
“In symptomatic people, COVID-19 is most infectious just before, and for the first few days after symptoms begin. It is very important people with symptoms self-isolate and get a test, which will allow contact tracing,” the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales said in a joint statement.
“Evidence, although still limited, has strengthened and shows that people with Covid-19 who are mildly ill and are recovering have a low but real possibility of infectiousness between seven and nine days after illness onset,” they said.
England CMO Professor Chris Whitty, Northern Ireland CMO Dr Michael McBride, Scotland CMO Dr Gregor Smith and Wales CMO Dr Frank Atherton said that they reviewed the self-isolation time-frame to reduce risk to the general population.
"At this point in the epidemic, with widespread and rapid testing available and considering the relaxation of other measures, it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period from seven to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result," the CMOs said.
“This will help provide additional protection to others in the community. This is particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission,” they added.
The move follows concerns of a feared second wave of the deadly coronavirus across Europe, which has recorded a death toll of over 181,000 from Covid-19.
"I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe and we''ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores and to tackle it," Hancock told ‘Sky News’.
"Absolutely, on a second wave it is something I worry about and I worry about it because we can see it happening," he said.
The government has held meetings to discuss which other countries should be added to the list of those not exempt from a 14-day quarantine rule imposed on travellers after a spike in cases saw Spain added over the weekend.
Travel firms and airport authorities have been mounting pressure on the government to use wider testing in order to overcome the need for compulsory quarantines, which is hampering international travel. Hancock confirmed that his officials are looking at reducing the length of the 14-day quarantine by testing international arrivals multiple times after they had returned to Britain.