UK may live with Covid for 10 years says minister

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has argued for slashing the Covid self-isolation period from seven to five days to curb staffing shortages among critical workers.

The top Tory said shortening the time people have to isolate with the virus would “certainly help” ease workforce pressures.

Schools and other key sectors have been struggling with staff as Covid infections soar, with 146,390 cases reported in the UK on Saturday.

It comes as the UK passed another grim Covid milestone, with the official death toll passing 150,000.

Mr Zahawi became the first Cabinet Minister to publicly back a reduction in the quarantine period, which has been imposed in the United States for asymptomatic cases.

And he told Sky News that he hoped the UK would lead the world in learning to live with Covid, which he said could remain an issue for the next 10 years.

Mr Zahawi said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was reviewing whether to move to a five-day quarantine for asymptomatic people who are vaccinated and have tested negative on lateral flows for two days.

But the UKHSA recently said it could be “counterproductive” as people leaving isolation might still be infectious – which could worsen staff shortages.

Mr Zahawi told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday the review needed to happen “as soon as possible, adding: “It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others.

“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.”

The top Tory 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.”