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How 1.7m people could be ordered to isolate each week

Nearly two million people a week could be forced to self- isolate by the end of the month unless ministers reform the rules.

About 400,000 were instructed to quarantine last week by Test and Trace staff – or their NHS Covid app.

Under the current system, they are told to isolate for ten days because they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Analysis of official figures predicts that this figure will soar to 1,734,000 by July 28 if current trends continue, given the steep week-on-week rise in cases and the popularity of the NHS’s smartphone app.

Nearly two million people a week could be forced to self- isolate by the end of the month unless ministers reform the rules (stock photo)

MPs, business chiefs and even health leaders have called for the ten-day rule to be changed, given that many of those forced into quarantine have been vaccinated.

Campaigners want the isolation period to be replaced with daily testing, or even scrapped for those who have been received two Covid jabs.

The hospitality industry has complained of severe staff shortages as a result of the current rules, which threaten to cause wider chaos across the economy and the NHS.

Schools have also been hard-hit, with thousands of children sent home as a result of positive Covid tests within their class ‘bubble’.

Ministers have considered plans to allow those who have had both jabs to take daily tests instead, but any changes are unlikely to be ready for Freedom Day on July 19.

Analysis of official figures predicts that this figure will soar to 1,734,000 by July 28 if current trends continue, given the steep week-on-week rise in case and high levels of testing

Analysis of official figures predicts that this figure will soar to 1,734,000 by July 28 if current trends continue, given the steep week-on-week rise in case and high levels of testing

MPs last year made it a legal duty to self-isolate if you are contacted by the Test and Trace programme.

In addition, millions were encouraged to download the NHS Covid-19 app, which notifies users if they have been in close proximity to someone confirmed to have the virus and urges them to isolate.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics and the NHS suggest that the numbers self-isolating will rise to 1.7million by the end of July, according to analysis by the Adam Smith Institute.

The think-tank’s deputy director, Matt Kilcoyne, said Test and Trace was a ‘great idea at the height of the previous waves when we had no treatments and no vaccines’.

He added: ‘Now it means millions forced to sit at home who pose no risk but are going bear the brunt of lost income, passing the buck on to businesses that will take less income.

‘Matt Hancock might well have left office, but we’re at risk of his legacy being an app that kills the economy.’ Bars and restaurants with staff stuck in quarantine have been forced to close their doors in recent weeks.

One Wetherspoon pub in Weston-super-Mare saw 75 members of staff forced to self-isolate, while a Hawksmoor steakhouse in London received 25 Test and Trace notifications within four weeks of reopening.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality, said: ‘For some weeks we have been telling the Government about the severe staff shortages at venues, compounded massively by the absence of staff members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive.

‘We need urgent clarification of the isolation policy to reflect the enormous success of the vaccine rollout, and we urge the Cabinet Office to amend the current isolation policy as soon as possible.’

The chief executive of one NHS trust also told how isolating medics who have had both vaccine doses and tested negative for Covid were begging to rejoin the front line.

Meanwhile, former Tory minister Tim Loughton – whose daughter has been forced to isolate despite having already had Covid this year, as well as being vaccinated – said of the current rules: ‘It’s overkill for people who are clearly low risk… we’ve got to have a measured, common-sense approach to risk.

‘We need to be able to be much more flexible, based on whether you’ve been vaccinated or tested or already had Covid. It’s having a hugely disruptive impact at the moment, particularly [for] jobs and hospitality.’

Fellow Tory MP Steve Baker said: ‘This can’t go on. Shutting down Test and Trace is now the litmus test of getting on with our lives and learning to live with coronavirus like we live with flu.’

He said that even if other restrictions are lifted on July 19, freedom will be hampered by the requirement for contacts of people testing positive to self-isolate for ten days.

‘I fear those with responsibility for the NHS are going to make it impossible to live a normal life by keeping Test and Trace going, even when most people have been double-jabbed.’


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