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Asymptomatic people will have to self-isolate after contact with COVID-19 cases

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People will be asked to self-isolate for two weeks even if they are asymptomatic after coming into ‘high-risk’ contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 – a testing chief has told NHS executives.

This marks a change from the official guidance given to users of the government’s contact tracing app – on NHS’ COVID-19 website – which states: “If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate at this time.”

John Newton, a leader of the UK’s testing programme, would be “directed towards those people at high risk” instead of the wider public. He added the government faces a “huge communications exercise” next week ahead of the launch of the test and trace programme.

Giving an update on the test and trace programme – which is due to launch on 1 June – Professor Newton said: “People who are deemed high risk contact of confirmed [COVID-19] cases will be told to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms at the time.

Professor Newton said: “The point is there will still be a requirement to contain the virus, but the impact in terms of containment will be directed towards those people at high risk so the rest of the population can enjoy more normal life."

He said the programme’s success would depend on the public’s response in terms of:

  • Presenting themselves for a test if they have symptoms;
  • Providing the information needed to identify high risk contacts; and
  • Those people identified as high risk contacts complying with advice to self-isolate.

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Source: HSJ, 21 May 2020

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