A new study from Public Health England is set to determine whether people exposed to Covid-10 really need to self-isolate for 10 days.
Daily coronavirus tests will be administered to as many as 40,000 people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, as part of research designed to gather evidence on “safe alternatives” to self-isolation for these people.
If successful, the study – conducted by the UK Health Security Agency (including Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace) – could provide evidence to help reduce the length of time people potentially exposed to the virus must isolate.
At present, any “close contact” of an infected person must spend 10 days in quarantine. But the government says it is keen to “prevent individuals from taking time off work, while allowing them to continue to participate safely in society.”
The idea is to find out if people without symptoms could undergo rapid daily lateral flow tests – like those currently done in many schools, hospitals and businesses – to see if they are infected.
According to the British Medical Journal, fears have recently been raised that negative results from lateral flow tests could cause people to be less careful, according to the British Medical Journal, with rapid self-tests likely to be less. effective in detecting positive cases than PCR tests performed in the laboratory.
The government claims that the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency was involved in approving the operation of the study, and if it shows positive results, the body may be called upon to approve the testing devices. lateral flow for regular use as part of the contact tracing process. .
The procedure would see close contacts of Covid cases sent 7 days of lateral flow tests, testing themselves each morning for seven days. People who test negative and do not develop symptoms would be exempt from the legal requirement to self-isolate that day and could leave their homes to perform essential activities.
The government says individuals will still need to adhere to current restrictions, including following rules on hands, face and space, and that only those officially enrolled in the research study will be exempt from usual legal obligations.
Health and Social Affairs Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With about one in three people showing no symptoms, regular testing already plays a vital role in helping us regain our lost freedoms – by catching cases early. positive, helping to identify new variants and crushing any epidemic. .
“At every stage of this global pandemic, the British public have come together and made huge sacrifices – including isolating themselves when asked. This new pilot could help change the tide in our favor by providing a viable alternative to self-isolation for people who come into contact with positive Covid-19 cases, and which would allow people to continue working and living. live their life.
“Along with the phenomenal progress in our immunization rollout – with over 48 million vaccines administered to date – rapid testing is getting us back to doing the things we all love.
When launching on Sunday 9 May, the study will offer people in England identified as close contact of a positive case the opportunity to participate in the study, provided they are symptom-free, have more than 18 years old and not in full-time education.
The study will compare two approaches for routine contact testing, one group given a PCR test and asked to self-isolate for the entire 10-day period, and the second group receiving two PCR tests and 7 LFDs to be tested. daily.
Professor Isabel Oliver, director of the National Infections Service at Public Health England and head of the study, said: ‘We know isolation when you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID- 19 is a challenge, but it remains vitally important to stop the spread. of infection. This study will help determine if we can deploy daily testing for contacts to potentially reduce the need for self-isolation, while ensuring that chains of transmission are stopped.
“Contacts of cases have a higher risk of infection, so testing them is a very effective way to prevent the spread. This study will play an important role in our assessment of daily contact testing and how the testing approach might evolve. “