Those exhibiting cold or flu symptoms should self-isolate “for a few days” to avoid making other people unwell, Sir Frank Atherton, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales claims. Speaking on Times Radio, he commented that he hoped the COVID-19 pandemic would encourage the nation to “think about how we behave as a society” when people are unwell. Sir Frank said: “Looking beyond the current wave, even, we need to think about how we behave as a society when we have any of these infections.
“Whether it’s flu or the common cold, or coronavirus, we probably need to move to a position where anybody who has a viral infection of that nature self-isolates, whether they’re an adult or a child, for a few days, just to stop it transmitting.
“I would say anybody who has a cold, or symptoms of a cold – a runny nose, a cough, sneezing, is it really appropriate for you to go on a train or a plane or a bus?
“You know, stay home, get better.”
The comments come amid soaring cases of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
The UK is recording record numbers of infections, but hospitalisations have remained relatively stable which suggests this variant is less severe than previous strains.
Current coronavirus rules in England, Wales and Northern Ireland state that anyone who tests positive for Covid must self-isolate for at least seven days.
They can then leave self-isolation if they test negative on days six and seven.
For Scotland, this isolation is extended to 10 days with negative results on days nine and 10.
Isolation rules have come under fire in recent days as key workforces battle mass staff absences.
On Monday, Boris Johnson revealed he is currently considering redeploying workers after the public sector was told to brace for up to a quarter of staff – around 1.4 million people – being off work.
The chaos has sparked fears that the UK could be plunged into a lockdown by default due to staff shortages and reduced services.
A “critical incident” was declared at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust due to “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages.
Meanwhile, nearly a third of rail services were axed across the country in recent days as a result of staff illnesses.
Days before schools are due to reopen after the Christmas break, the Government has urged them to create contingency plans in the event of mass staff absences.
Local councils are also having to redistribute staff between essential services to keep everything running.
On a visit to a vaccination centre in Stoke Mandeville on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We are looking at what we can do to move people into those areas that are particularly badly affected”.
The Prime Minister has come under pressure by business owners and some scientists to reduce the isolation period.
Epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector has branded the current self-isolation rules as “over-cautious”.
The scientist, who created the ZOE COVID symptom tracker app, thinks the current seven-day isolation system should be cut to five days.
The Prime Minister has so far resisted the calls for a reduced isolation time due to concerns about prematurely releasing infectious individuals – which would render the move counter-productive.