The NHS is still telling Covid-infected people in England to self-isolate for ten days, MailOnline can reveal.
This is despite ministers deciding last week to cut the quarantine period to just one week for people who test negative two days in a row.
More than a week on, however, and the NHS is still yet to prominently display No10’s rule change on its own guidance website.
Covid-infected people in England wanting to find out how long to self-isolate must click through to a separate page and then open a pop-up window to learn about the updated edict.
Scientists today urged the NHS to ‘rectify’ its guidance quickly, saying no one should be expected to isolate for ‘longer than is necessary’.
England is on its own with the isolation guidance, however. The rest of the UK has stuck with the original 10-day period.
It comes as business leaders, scientists and MPs have all lined up to call on Boris Johnson to cut self-isolation to five days in line with the US.
Britons searching self-isolation online may be taken to this page telling them to isolate for ten full days. To reveal the seven-day rule, they must then click on the link highlighted above
Those that click on the link are then taken to this page. They must select ‘if you’ve tested positive’ (highlighted above) to reveal the seven-day rule
The window under the if you’ve tested positive reveals people who test positive for Covid can leave self-isolation three days early if they get a negative lateral flow on their sixth and seventh day in quarantine
Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to cut the isolation period to five days in line with the US. It could mean more NHS staff will leave quarantine early, and be able to return to their frontline roles
People searching self-isolate rules online are taken to a page on the NHS website titled ‘when to self-isolate and what to do — Coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
Under the section detailing how long to self-isolate at the bottom of the page they are told: ‘If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you did not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.’
Those that click on the link titled ‘how long to self-isolate’ are taken to a different page.
Is it REALLY safe to cut the 10-day quarantine?
How long are people infectious for?
Britain’s Covid’s self-isolation sentence could be halved to just five days, some academics have argued.
Data suggests roughly 98 per cent of virus transmission occurs either before people become ill, or within five days of symptoms starting.
Dr Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert from the University of St Andrews, said earlier this year: ‘Given most transmission happens very early on, the isolation period could be much shorter for the cases.
‘Viral load peaks pretty quickly, so people are highly infectious within the first few days.’
How long can Covid patients test positive for?
Lateral flow tests, which offer results in as little as 15 minutes, work best for sniffing out the people who are most infectious.
They look for viral proteins called antigens in samples taken from the nose and throat.
But the kits are less sensitive than gold-standard PCRs, which sees swabs sent off to laboratories to be analysed for viral genetic material.
It means they are less likely to spot someone when they are infected, but also less likely to give a positive result when someone has gone past their peak infectiousness and have a lower viral load.
PCRs, on the other hand, are extremely sensitive and can pick up the presence of viral fragments long after the illness has cleared.
For this reason, a positive PCR result does not always mean someone is still contagious.
Once there, they must then click on the pop up titled ‘if you’ve tested positive’ to find out about the seven-day rule.
The NHS is yet to respond to MailOnline’s queries as to whether the page will be updated to make the isolation rules clearer.
The hidden guidance has raised fears that some Britons may still be isolating for the full ten days, even when this is not necessary.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, urged the NHS to ‘rectify’ its guidance quickly.
He told MailOnline: ‘This seems to be an error of presentation which needs to be rectified quickly.
‘Nobody should be expected to stay in isolation for a day longer than is necessary and things like this just sow confusion and a sense that the rules and regulations are not clear.
‘However, such communication also needs to be clear that stopping self-isolation after seven days is not a blanket rule and is only permissible if someone has negative lateral flow results on days 6 and 7, with the tests taken 24-hours apart.
‘Otherwise people might unwittingly spread the virus to someone vulnerable.’
Ministers announced on December 22 that Britons would only have to self-isolate for seven days, as long they got two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said evidence showed the protection provided by lateral flows was ‘very similar to ten days of isolation without tests’.
He added that the updated guidance would help cut staff shortages in the NHS and essential services sparked by Omicron.
Figures show as many as 875,000 are currently required to remain indoors after testing positive, with thousands of vital health workers self-isolating.
Staff shortages mean almost one in 20 train services have been cancelled and a third of London’s fire engines are off the streets.
The seven-day rule applies only in England, with people who test positive for Covid in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still required to isolate for ten days.
It comes amid growing calls from business leaders, MPs and some scientists for the period to be cut to five days in line with updates in the US.
Professor Tim Spector, who leads the Zoe Covid Study at King’s College London, said: ‘Five days is sensible if the individual has two lateral flow tests negative.
‘A reduction in isolation days would help many frontline services by allowing low-risk staff to go into work and avoid people staying home unnecessarily.’
Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen told Sky News yesterday: ‘The biggest threat I see now to the NHS, and indeed to all essential services and businesses, is from forced absenteeism due to self-isolation. America have dropped the self isolation to five days. I think we can do the same.’
CBI president Lord Bilimoria said: ‘We have got to go for as low an isolation period as is safe because the disruption at the moment is huge.’
But a senior World Health Organization official yesterday warned Boris Johnson not to adapt Covid-fighting strategies based on ‘early’ Omicron data.
Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the agency’s health emergencies programme, urged the Government to ‘wait and see’ before acting.
But he claimed the chances of someone transmitting the virus after six days of being infected were ‘lower’ and accepted it was up to individual countries to make a ‘judgement call’.
Dr Ryan told a WHO press conference: ‘Even with the previous variants most people will incubate and show symptoms or be positive within that first six days or so, and the chances then of being positive or transmitting the disease after that are lower.
‘But it is then for governments to make that judgment call of when to allow people out of a quarantine situation with extra tests.
‘The most important thing at this moment is we need to be careful about changing tactics and strategies immediately on the basis of what we’re seeing in early Omicron data.’
UK officials said yesterday there are ‘no further changes’ planned to self-isolation rules in the country, and insisted the current strategy was ‘right’.