‘It’s something that I want to see and we will introduce subject to clinical advice, as soon as it’s reasonable to do so,’ says health secretary
The change in guidance — if signed off by Boris Johnson — would mean those who have received both jabs may soon be spared 10 days of self-isolation if they come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
According to reports over the weekend, the health secretary is pushing to replace the mandatory self-isolation in favour of daily lateral flow tests, but a government decision is not expected until later in the summer.
It comes after Public Health England (PHE) launched a trial with 40,000 people who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19, “to gather evidence on safe alternatives to self-isolation”.
It is understood the study — launched in May — is still ongoing and its findings are expected to contribute to ministers’ decisions on whether the approach is suitable to be rolled out nationally.
Under current rules, anyone who has been contacted by Test and Trace after coming into contact with a positive case must self-isolate at home for a 10 day period, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of the virus.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said on Monday: “This is something that I’m working on, but I’m taking clinical advice as you can imagine, because we want to make sure people are safe and that the systems we have in place are cautious and manage to contain this virus.
“So we are piloting that approach that if you’ve had two jabs, instead of having to isolate, if you’re a contact, then you’d have a testing regime.
“We are piloting that now to check that will be effective and it is something we are working on — we are not ready to be able to take that step yet, but it’s something that I want to see and we will introduce subject to clinical advice, as soon as it’s reasonable to do so”.
Last week a separate study by PHE found that one dose of a Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine Covid-19 vaccine could reduce the risk of hospitalisation by three quarters, with the effectiveness increasing to more than 92 per cent after two doses.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, cabinet minister Robert Buckland said the ministers had not ruled out relaxing restrictions, including on overseas travel, for those who have received both doses of a Covid vaccine.
“I think experts like [PHE’s] Susan Hopkins are absolutely right to remind us the evidence is still developing on double vaccines,” he said. “It looks great, it looks really encouraging, we’re trying to be as flexible as we can.
And at the weekend, Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told Times Radio the United States’ health protection agency the Centre for Disease Control had “changed their guidance a while ago to say that people who had had both doses of the vaccine and about 10-14 days after the second dose didn’t have to self-isolate, so I think we are moving in that direction”.
“As we’ve heard repeatedly from Chris Whitty and others, this virus isn’t going to disappear.
“We’re going to have to live alongside it, means we are going to have infections in future, so being a contact of someone infected will always be a possibility,” Prof Bauld added.