Isolation time cut and measures could end next week

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ISOLATION requirements for Covid-positive Islanders have been cut, while work-from-home guidance and mask-wearing in indoor spaces could be axed next week.

Ministers have agreed that Islanders who test positive for Covid can leave isolation after five full days – provided they are fully vaccinated, or under the age of 11, and have registered two negative lateral-flow test results within at least 24 hours. Non-fully-vaccinated Islanders isolate for seven full days but can then go out if they register a second negative lateral-flow test 24 hours after the first.

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell, which advises government on Covid policy, is due to meet on Monday to discuss the possible easing of other restrictions.

Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said he was ‘hopeful’ that these conversations would lead to an announcement, confirming that the final Covid measures could be lifted, next week.

He said: ‘STAC will be presenting to ministers early next week and I am hopeful that we will be able to make an announcement along the lines of that which has just been made in England.

‘We are seeing that Omicron is presenting far less risk to our resilience and health services than originally feared, and it appears to be far milder than the other variants. As always, we will follow the advice but, as it stands, I think we can begin to move sensibly towards that stage.’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that existing Plan B restrictions in England would end on 26 January. Covid passports will no longer be required to enter nightclubs and large events, and the legal requirement to wear facemasks will cease. Mr Johnson also said that he intended to reduce isolation requirements before the end of winter.

Known active case numbers in the Island stood at 2,273 yesterday, having peaked at 4,137 on Friday 7 January.

Health Minister Richard Renouf said: ‘The isolation policy requires a balance-of-harms approach, balancing the impact to society and the individual against the benefits of reduced transmission.

‘As anticipated, the recent widespread community transmission because of the Omicron variant resulted in a large number of Islanders isolating.

‘This immediate update to the isolation policy will mean that Islanders who meet the criteria are able to leave their isolation early. However, they are recommended to be cautious over the following days after leaving isolation.’

Deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat said that reducing the isolation requirements would benefit both the ‘health and wellbeing of individuals and the community as a whole’.

‘Current evidence shows that viral infection reduces quicker in those who are fully vaccinated, and the risk of spreading the virus to others is highest at the start of infection or just after the onset of infection.

‘Therefore, it is appropriate that fully vaccinated Islanders are able to start testing themselves from day five whereas those who are not fully vaccinated may start testing themselves from day seven,’ he said.

‘As always, I strongly encourage all Islanders to ensure they are up to date with their vaccination schedule by getting their booster doses or second doses.

‘If you have not yet had your first vaccination, it is not too late, your vaccine is waiting for you. Walk-ins are available until the end of this month, so you can get your first, second or booster dose at the vaccination centre [at Fort Regent] without an appointment.’

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