New 15-minute Covid tests could end the need to quarantine

HIGH-risk Brits may no longer have to quarantine thanks to new 15-minute Covid tests, Government experts claim.

All close contacts of a positive case currently must self-isolate for 14 days – meaning entire families are stuck indoors for a fortnight if a household member is infected.

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But leading scientists claim rapid checks will soon be able to end quarantine for high-risk individuals.

Ministers are currently finalising plans to slash the time close Covid contacts will be asked to self-isolate indoors.

Healthy Brits will be able to seek a swab test as little as a week after a member of their household falls ill – and be allowed out if the results are negative.

Officials hope it will see the time contacts need to self-isolate fall by up to six days.

But Sir John Bell, who has been advising Government on coronavirus testing, says new on-the-spot checks could go further.

The regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford said cheap at-home tests could end the need for many to quarantine.

 

Sir John said his team have trialled 70 pregnancy-style tests and found six “that look really good”, with millions now being rolled out to support NHS Test and Trace.

Speaking on the BBC Today programme, he said: "I hesitate to use the word game-changer because it gets overused, but it is a significant step forward in the testing arena.”

Sir John said the tests will help “promote enablement rather than restriction”.

He added: “What we hope you'll be able to do is to avoid that kind of quarantine of contacts which has caused so much trouble.

“With these tests, it should be possible…to test those people every two days and they can go about their business.

“I think it opens the door for people to get back to much more routine way of life.”

The Prime Minister's official spokesman would not say whether a possible cut in the self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid-19 was related to Government plans for a mass rollout of public testing.

It comes after Boris Johnson promised a "big, big push" on isolation compliance for those who test positive or come into contact with a positive case.

The Number 10 official said: "We are reviewing the period of time under which people are asked to self-isolate and that work is ongoing. We will set out further details in due course."

Asked whether the review might see the stay-at-home period cut to 10 or even seven days, the spokesman said: "I don't have a timescale for you on when we will be in a position to announce the next steps, but we have said we are looking at a reduction in the period of self-isolation.

"I don't think I have specified a specific time-limit but it is something we are looking at."

Pushed on whether the cut would be linked to the roll-out of more mass testing, the spokesman added: "As I say, the work's ongoing and I can't pre-empt it, as I'm sure you'll understand."

It comes as the first mass testing pilot is set to be launched in Liverpool.

Ministers said today if the plans go smoothly for the 500,000 people in the Northern city, they want to roll out mass testing to other towns and cities "within weeks".

Robert Jenrick told the BBC this morning it was a "really exciting step forward" to give everyone the opportunity to get tested on a regular basis.

He added: "If this is a success, and I sincerely hope that everyone in Liverpool will get behind it, then we would like to roll this out in more towns and cities across the country in the weeks ahead."

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