Lifting UK Covid-19 isolation rule would be a ‘step too far’ says expert

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the requirement could be scrapped by the end of the month

Commuters at Waterloo Station in central London. England is looking to scrap its self-isolation Covid-19 restrictions. EPA
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Relaxing Covid-19 self-isolation rules would be a “step too far” and risks undoing progress made in the battle against the virus, a public health expert has said.

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian in Scotland, said anything other than a slow and cautious move out of the existing restrictions would be a mistake.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he intends to end the requirement to self-isolate in England a month earlier than expected, due to the “encouraging trends” of falling infections numbers.

The rule will expire on March 24 but under government plans it could be scrapped before the end of February.

In Northern Ireland, the self-isolation rule remains, as it does in Scotland.

However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will publish a new strategic framework for dealing with Covid-19 on February 22 — which could see the restriction lifted.

The Welsh government this week announced the rolling back of some coronavirus measures but said it would keep the requirement for people to isolate if they test positive for the virus.

A UK public health expert has urged people to continue to wear face masks in indoor public settings, regardless of whether they are required. EPA

Ms Evans said if measures designed to curb the spread of the virus are lifted too soon it would backfire.

“Advice from the scientific community and the WHO [World Health Organisation] is when you’re coming out of a peak or a spike, you do so slowly and you do so cautiously,” she told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

“I would argue at this point in time, certainly the potential of removal of self-isolation would be a step too far.”

“The worst thing that could happen is that we remove things too quickly and we end up undoing a lot of the good that we’ve done and worked so hard for,” she said.

Ms Evans encouraged people to continue wearing face masks in public indoor settings and crowded spaces.

Mr Johnson last month lifted the requirement to wear a face covering indoors. The rule remains in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

From February 28, people in Wales will no longer have to wear a face mask in most indoor public places. However, the rule will remain in place for retail, public transport and health and care settings.

“Most importantly, if you are unwell, stay at home,” Ms Evans said.

“If you have an infectious illness, stay at home — and that includes flu and other things.

“Try not to be so caught up by some of the hope and optimism that we have that this is all over, because it certainly isn’t yet. Not yet.”

Updated: February 12, 2022, 1:46 PM
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