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Britain mulls replacing self-isolation with daily tests

Vaccination committee also to decide over summer if school children will receive vaccines this September.

The British government on Saturday announced a pilot scheme to examine whether daily lateral flow tests could be used as an alternative to self-isolation in the event a person comes into contact with a corona​virus​​​​​​-positive individual.

Coming into contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19 under the current rules requires a person to self-isolate for 10 days.

The new pilot scheme, which will begin in England on May 9, will send people self-testing kits. If they test negative daily, they can go out normally, removing the need for self-isolation.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This new pilot could help shift the dial in our favor by offering a viable alternative to self-isolation for people who are contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, and one that would allow people to carry on going to work and living their lives.”

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday that the UK was in its “last lap” of the fight against the coronavirus.

Raab said: “I know that people are hankering to go a bit faster but actually we feel vindicated at taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go.

“We’re very close now to really turning the corner and I think we still need to be careful to go. As I said, we don’t want to see the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone.”

By June 21, nearly all the restrictions in the country are expected to be lifted, he added, noting that there was “only a little bit more time to go but it’s right we do that in a careful way.”

“I do think we just need to make sure that in the last lap, if you like, that we are careful and we don’t lose the gains we’ve made.”

Child vaccinations

The Sunday Times reported that secondary-school children could be vaccinated in September when the new academic year starts.

The report said that the National Health Service (NHS) could give children aged 12 and above a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer said its trials of vaccinating children between 12 and 15-years-old showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response. It is the only vaccine to have produced data for under-16s.

The Times said the final decision will be taken this summer by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Professor Adam Finn from the University of Bristol is one of the committee’s members. He was quoted as saying: “We need to be in a position to immunise children, particularly teenagers, promptly and efficiently if we need to.”

“It is extremely important that education in the next academic year is not disrupted in any way,” he added.

A Department of Health spokesperson was also quoted in the report as saying: “No decisions have been made on whether children should be offered vaccinations and we will be guided by the experts once clinical trials have concluded.

“As we’ve already said, we are preparing for a booster programme to take place from the autumn and we continue to plan for all scenarios. We have hit our target of offering vaccines to everyone in phase one of the programme and we are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July.”

Government data released on Saturday showed that across the UK, over the past 24 hours there were 1,671 more positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to over 4.4 million. There were also a further 14 deaths, bringing the total to 127,538.

Up to and including 29 April 2021, over 34.5 million first doses of vaccine have been administered, and over 15.3 million second doses.

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