NHS workers could be released from Covid isolation after 7 days in latest plans

NHS staff are needed on the front line – but would it work? (Image: Getty)

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NHS workers could be “released” from coronavirus isolation after just 7 days instead of 14, a top scientist has said.

SAGE advisor Callum Semple said experts will look at testing people who were exposed to coronavirus midway through their quarantine.

If they test negative after seven days, they could be released back to work at that point despite staying at home for the full 14 days, he said.

But the plan relies on mass tests which some experts warn are not accurate enough for a “test and release” system.

There are fears people could still be incubating the virus after seven days, but not show up on a test.

Prof Semple warned the plan would be an “evaluation” to find out results, not a mass plan for the whole country.

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He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the next stage we’re going to look at ‘test to release’ from quarantine, to enable our emergency services and some clinical teams and mental health teams to get back into role rather than quarantine for 14 days – and other groups of society.

“Rather than quarantine as contacts for 14 days, we’re looking at mechanisms to release them on the seventh day.

“This is part of an evaluation and a public health intervention.

“And the word evaluation has to be emphasised – we don’t know what parts of it will work for quite some time.”

The NHS is currently rolling out rapid coronavirus tests across scores of towns and cities in England, along with places like universities.

Lateral flow testing has been rolling out across Liverpool and Stoke (pictured)
(Image: PA)

Residents in Liverpool have been tested en masse to spot the scale of the disease.

But while so-called “lateral flow” tests have a very rare false positive rate, they can give a large number of false negatives.

That means some people who have coronavirus will show up wrongly as negative on the test.

When used by lab scientists, one lateral flow test caught 79% of positive cases. But this fell to 73% when used by trained healthcare staff and 58% when used by members of the public.

The government previously insisted those with the most severe symptoms – and therefore most infectious – were more likely to be flagged by the tests.

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