Still self-isolate says health chief despite Covid rule change

Joseph Bulmer

Devon’s director of public health will still encourage people to isolate if they have covid, even when legal requirements end in the coming weeks.

The prime minister recently said England’s remaining covid restrictions could be lifted at the end of February, earlier than expected, amid ‘encouraging trends in the data’.

That would include the legal order to self-isolate following a positive test. Boris Johnson said he will announce his plan for ‘living with Covid’ on parliament’s return from recess on Monday [21 February].

Speaking at a Team Devon meeting of local authority and health leaders this week, public health director Steve Brown said although they were still waiting for the detail, ‘the direction of travel’ means a change in policy about testing and isolation is likely.

However, his message to the public will remain ‘fairly constant’ when the legal restrictions end.

“If you test positive or you have the symptoms for coronavirus we would absolutely urge people to isolate to reduce the risk of infection and transmission onto others,” he said.

“Clearly there will be a national policy but our public health messaging, which has remained fairly consistent right from the beginning in terms of public health measures, will remain very high.”

“We also need to be very conscious that for a portion of the population who are extremely vulnerable, the idea of people not having to isolate and the reduction of some of those key policies around testing for example, will impact on them negatively and how they live their lives.

“So, Freedom Day for some is seen as the complete opposite for others, so we’re going to be consistent in our messaging around how we respect one another and recognise that not everybody will be welcoming all the changes.”

Mr Brown urged a ‘degree of caution’ around the falling covid case numbers in Devon. He said they only relate to official positive cases reported and that some people choose not to get a test or don’t report a positive one.

Figures for the week to last Thursday [10 February] show covid cases in the Devon County Council area and Torbay both dropped by around 30 per cent, with a 23 per cent fall in Plymouth.

Dr Paul Johnson of the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group also revealed the number in hospital with covid had fallen to 156 (as of Tuesday 15 February), driven by a fall in the number of people being treated in Plymouth.

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