Covid isolation rules WILL be reviewed, Education Secretary says as experts admit gloomy Omicron predictions were wrong

COVID rules will be reviewed by health officials amid calls to reduce self-isolation from seven days to five, the Education Secretary said today.

Nadhim Zahawi argued that reducing the isolation period for those who test positive could help ease staffing shortages as experts admitted their initial drastic death predictions about Omicron were wrong.

The former vaccines minister told The Sunday Times that cutting the isolation from seven to five days would be "more helpful" after a string of NHS trusts declared emergencies over staffing shortages.

And speaking to Sky's Trevor Phillips this morning, he said the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) were examining the isolation period, saying: "We have to be careful as to whether we move because what you could end up with is actually a perverse incentive where the spike is higher because people come out of it too early."

He added: "But they said they will review it and if the evidence is there where if you are asymptomatic and you are vaccinated and boosted and you have two days of seven days of negative lateral flow tests they said that they will keep that under review. 

"It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others.

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"But I would absolutely be driven by advice from the experts, the scientists, on whether we should move to five days from seven days.

"What you don't want is to create the wrong outcome by higher levels of infection."

He added: "I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic, and then deal with this however long it remains with us, whether that's five, six, seven, 10 years."

It comes after he told the Sunday times UKHSA had wanted to review the isolation period.

He added: "If they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it's even more helpful."

Experts yesterday told The Sun Online the UK is emerging as one of the most immune countries in the world with data suggesting 98% of Brits have some form of resistance against Omicron.

Official Covid deaths passed 150,000 in the UK yesterday since the pandemic began however cases have continued to drop.

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But experts who had initially warned Britain needed to impose harsh measures or face thousands of deaths due to Omicron admitted they were wrong.

Modellers who advise the Government admitted that winter deaths by the new strainwould be "substantially" lower than they had anticipated, mainly because the strain is less deadly as they thoughtMail Online reports.

Dr Nick Davies and his team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine built the original models assuming Omicron was equally lethal to the Delta strain.

He said: "We now know that doesn’t seem to be at all the case, as people are ending up in hospital with Omicron, but they are not requiring critical care [to the same extent as with Delta]"

"The deaths number will come down very substantially [compared with original estimates]."

He added: "It’s clear that our understanding of Omicron has changed substantially in the last two weeks."

It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

Around half a million vaccination appointments are being made available online in England for the 12 to 15-year-olds during January, a senior doctor has said – with slots available at around 500 walk-in sites and 300 centres.

And the Health Secretary has slammed "anti-vaccination fanatics" after he revealed that nine out of ten Covid patients in ICU have not had their booster jab.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Sajid Javid said that a "shocking 70 per cent of Covid patients taking up beds in intensive care were unvaccinated…" before branding "disappointing" that tennis star Djokovic is "fuelling scepticism" about the vaccines.

It comes as experts believe coronavirus will be as mild as the common cold in months and the world will go back to normal.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said Scotland is not considering further reducing its quarantine period.

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