An NHS frontline consultant has said it “feels like the pandemic is over” as he backed ending legal self-isolation requirements – but warned scrapping free Covid tests now would be “premature”.
Dr Richard Cree, who works in intensive care at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, said it was “obvious” the virus has become “far less dangerous”.
Writing in his nomoresurgeons.com blog, which he has used to share first-hand observations during the pandemic, Dr Cree revealed his wife appeared to have recently returned a false positive lateral flow test.
Nicky, who is also a consultant, had gone on to receive a negative PCR test result, as did two of their children who also had mild symptoms, he said.
“Not that Nicky and I couldn’t have done with seven days of isolation in some respects but to succumb to Covid now would have felt like falling at the final hurdle,” he wrote.
Following the revelation, he began to consider the likely effects of ending the legal requirement to self-isolate after receiving a positive test result.
The consultant supported the axing of self-isolation requirements, which the Government is expected to announce next week, adding that admissions to intensive care units were waning and the Omicron variant of the virus was milder.
Dr Cree said: “Things have changed and we are in a very different place from where we were just a few months ago.
“Back then, we were talking about learning to live with a virus that was a serious threat if you were in an at-risk group and/or were unvaccinated. Now though, it’s obvious that the virus is far less dangerous.”
He added: “If you were to pay a visit to any Intensive Care Unit this would be abundantly clear. Despite a ridiculously high community infection rate, Intensive Care Units nowadays look pretty much like they did back in 2019 before the pandemic began.
“Of course, you’ll still find the odd Covid positive patient in an isolation room but gone are the dedicated Covid units that were full of horribly sick patients… This is because very few Covid patients are being admitted to Intensive Care anymore.”
The doctor added the Downing Street partygate saga had “done nothing to encourage civil obedience” and that studies showed many people do not currently observe the full seven-day isolation period anyway.
“The current law is effectively unenforceable and does not act as much of a deterrent,” he said.
And moving from a system of legal requirements to one of personal responsibility would likely see those who have consistently observed the rules remain cautious, he said.
However, the consultant described reports that free testing may be brought to an end as “worrying”.
“This does seem rather premature. After all, it’s hard to see how you can advise people to avoid spreading Covid whilst making it difficult and/or costly to obtain a test,” Dr Cree said.
The doctor said talk of scrapping isolation requirements was a sign of “just how far we’ve come” in tackling the virus.
“Back in November, before Omicron arrived, very few of us dared to imagine that we might be where we are now,” Dr Cree said.
“The Prime Minister loves nothing better than exuding optimism and the picture he is painting is an unashamedly positive one. However, unlike Nicky’s lateral flow test, I don’t believe that this is a false positive.”
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