Rapid Test of Covid-19 Contacts to Help Lessen Self-Isolation Period

Written by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine Group

It has been nearly 14 months into the coronavirus pandemic, the cruelest health crisis of recent times has rattled everyone from businesses, individuals, government, the healthcare systems, and the so-called contingency plans. The governments and the concerned healthcare departments across the world have seemingly failed multiple times in ascertaining the evolving size and scale of the Covid-19 (SARS CoV-2) virus, its rapidly mutating strains, and the unfolding risks associated with them.

The government of the United Kingdom is apparently on the verge of winning the initial battle against the fatal disease after months of collective efforts by the Test and Trace, Vaccines Taskforce, local GP’s, hospitals, regional healthcare authorities, the health and social care staff, the massive workforce deployed by the National Health Service (NHS) and the Public Health England (PHE).

The national lockdowns have significantly helped in partly relieving the immediate pressure of hospital admissions and the daily rate of infections, while the third nation-wide lockdown had a more appreciable consequence as the rate of hospitalizations, as well as the infection, is now way lower as compared to figures recorded in the first week of the present calendar year.

The government is planning to launch a daily testing drive under which as many as 40,000 people, who have been in close contact with any Covid infected individuals, will be tested. The study, led by PHE and NHS Test and Trace, has been backed by the government to identify the infections in the individuals who met any Covid-19 positive person. Following the test results, the authorities will be gathering evidence on safe alternatives to self-isolation for such individuals.

The mechanism of rapid lateral flow testing will be followed while testing the people in close contact with a Covid-19 infected person. The study could be quite eventful as the country prepares to reopen with the next set of planned easements as prescribed in the exit roadmap.

The healthcare authorities, including the PHE and NHS Test and Trace, could help the individuals in minimizing the time period required for self-isolation. This seems a calculative step as the government didn’t want any person to unnecessarily remain isolated for a longer period of time unless there are serious symptoms. Self-isolation time dropping from 10 days could potentially help the people to continue participating in society safely.

The people mandated to follow self-isolation guidelines can effectively reduce the time period allowing themselves to attend office and other important tasks. The reduction in the self-isolation period will only be allowed after the successful completion of the study and conclusive recommendations by the PHE and NHS.

Businesses, hospitals, and schools will be participating in the England-wide pilot study in order to decrease the time spent in self-isolation after securing a negative daily test result. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, more than 800 individuals, 200 schools, and 180 workplaces have participated in daily testing pilots since December last year.

The designated daily rapid testing for the people who have been in contact with Covid-19 positive persons has emerged quite promising in alleviating the time required to self-isolate, alongside detecting the infections that would have been left unspotted.

As per the present guidelines, individuals returning positive in either of the tests are mandated to follow a 10-day self-isolation period. With the nationwide study across England, the government desires to identify people who can cut short their respective duration by taking a rapid test on a daily basis.

Under the study, the people who have been in close contact with the Covid-19 positive individuals will be contacted individually to provide 7-day lateral flow tests (LFTs). With the help of these test kits, people can easily test themselves for seven days in a row. Following this, the individuals without Covid-19 symptoms, returning negative in the LFTs will be exempt from the mandatory self-isolation period of 10-days.

The PHE and the NHS Test and Trace will be launching the study on Sunday, 9 May 2021. England residents over the age of 18 years, in close contact with any Covid-19 positive person, who don’t have Covid-19 symptoms are entitled to participate in the study.