Under fire, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered officials to examine the possibility of reducing the Covid-19 self-isolation period from seven to just five days in England.
Johnson announced plans to relax quarantine rules, but only if backed by scientific advice, and is said to have the support of Health Secretary Sajid Javid when clinicians give the go-ahead.
The Cabinet Office will conduct an isolation test with the help of the UK Health Authority and the Department of Health and Welfare and will post its results on Downing Street.
The move to reduce self-isolation time is likely a response to the infrastructure crisis that the UK is now facing.
Almost every industry has to struggle with staff shortages, train timetables have to be redesigned due to absenteeism, and the healthcare, hospitality and healthcare sectors are also being decimated.
Shortening the quarantine would alleviate this shortage somewhat, but it is not without risk.
Some scientists have warned that this could result in still infectious people returning to their jobs and making the situation worse.
When does self-isolation last five days?
It has been less than a month since self-isolation was reduced from 10 to seven days in England when a person tests negative on days six and seven by a lateral flow test.
Another five-day cut, however, could be introduced as early as January 17th, depending on what the isolation report recommends.
Some ministers have reportedly asked the Prime Minister to follow the United States in introducing a five-day quarantine.
However, copying a nation that recently broke the global daily Covid-19 case record of 1.35 million in a single period of 24 years has drawn criticism.
Scientists have urged caution in further reducing isolation times.
Martin McKee, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of the Independent Sage Group, said evidence of a shortening was “impossible”.
“The limited evidence available, for example [a] small Japanese study, offers little reassurance, suggesting that a significant proportion of people infected with Omicron are still contagious after five days, “he said.
It is also contemplated that health and social workers may have stricter conditions for getting out of isolation compared to the general public.
This is to reduce the risk of staff spreading the virus to people at risk in hospitals or nursing homes.