Home » Covid News Live: WHO Warns Of ‘trade-Off’ As Countries Ease Isolation And Testing Rules

Covid News Live: WHO Warns Of ‘trade-Off’ As Countries Ease Isolation And Testing Rules

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06:15

Spain, Italy and Australia ease isolation and testing rules

Fearful of the economic impact of keeping so many people at home and a lack of staff due to long isolation times, some governments are looking at shortening the period that people have to isolate if they are Covid positive or have been exposed to someone who is positive.

Spain announced it will reduce the quarantine period for people who have tested positive for Covid-19 to seven days from 10, even as new infections hit record highs.

Italy said will scrap self-isolation rules for those coming into contact with someone testing positive for coronavirus providing they have had a booster shot, have recently recovered or been vaccinated.

The move comes after health experts urged the government to rethink its policies amid worries that the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant could paralyse the country by forcing millions to stay at home.

Pedestrians walk on a street in Barcelona, Spain, on 27 December. Photograph: Europa Press News/Europa Press/Getty Images

Earlier this week US health authorities also released new guidance shortening the isolation period for people with a confirmed infection to five days from 10, so long as they are asymptomatic.

In England, people who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period – with tests taken 24 hours apart – no longer have to stay indoors for a full 10 days.

Australia on Thursday narrowed its definition of close contacts of coronavirus cases and relaxed requirements for Covid-19 tests, as daily cases topped 20,000 for the first time in the pandemic, in a bid to relieve pressure on testing sites.

The rules are being relaxed to stop asymptomatic people being forced into isolation, especially in healthcare, hospitality and airlines, and cut long lines of people forced to get PCR tests for interstate travel or because they have been at a public site with a confirmed case.

Prime minister Scott Morrison told reporters:

With Omicron, we cannot have hundreds of thousands of Australians and more taken out of circulation based on rules that were set for the Delta variant”

From Friday, Morrison said “close contacts” will be redefined as people who live in the same household with an infected person. They would have to isolate for seven days and would only have to get a PCR test if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

Updated

05:54

Hello and welcome back to our live Covid blog. I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest coronavirus developments as they happen.

Countries across Europe are reporting a record high number of infections as authorities scramble to stem the surge.

The UK, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Ireland and Greece all reported new case records this week, while cases in the US also hit a new high.

Despite the surge in cases, countries across the world are easing isolation and testing rules.

Spain reduced its Covid self-isolation period to seven days from 10 after businesses expressed fears the Omicron surge would leave them with mounting staff shortages.

Italy scrapped the isolation period for people who have received three shots of a Covid vaccine and are subsequently exposed to someone who has tested positive.

In England, people who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period – with tests taken 24 hours apart – no longer have to stay indoors for a full 10 days.

In light of these decisions, the World Health Organization cautioned that slashing the mandatory isolation period for people with Covid-19 was a trade-off between controlling transmission and keeping economies up and running.

Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said it is not “advisable” to reduce Covid controls and warned that governments need to be “careful” about reducing restrictions.

Speaking at a WHO press conference on Wednesday, Dr Ryan said:

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.”

  • The UK reported another record rise with more than 183,000 daily Covid cases on Wednesday.
  • More than 90% of community Covid cases in England are the now Omicron variant, according to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency.
  • Paris, France, is set to reimpose wearing face masks outdoors again in this week in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, police said on Wednesday.
  • Anti-vaxxers stormed a Covid testing centre during a ‘freedom’ rally in Milton Keynes, appearing to believe it was a coronavirus vaccine centre.
  • Argentina reported a daily record of 42,032 new cases on Wednesday.
  • France registered a national and European record for new infections reporting 208,000 coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, up from its previous record of almost 180,000 set the day before.
  • The German health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Wednesday that the number of new Covid cases has been under-reported and the actual incidence rate of infections is about two or three times higher than the officially reported figure.
  • More than 44,000 people in the US could die of Covid-19 in the next four weeks, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Portugal reported a new record of 26,867 Covid cases over the last 24 hours on Wednesday, up from 17,172 the previous day, although daily deaths dropped to a fraction of early 2021 peaks.
  • Cuba will give booster shots to its entire population in January, according to a report in state-run media.