BMA calls for Government to provide evidence for removing the self-isolation requirement in England

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 10 February 2022
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Responding to the news that the Government is considering removing, from later this month, the legal requirement for those infected with Covid-19 to self-isolate, Dr Penelope Toff, chair of the BMA public health medicine committee, said:

"With case rates still incredibly high and hundreds of deaths each day, the suggestion that self-isolation may be removed this month, runs contrary to good public health practice. We must question on what scientific basis this decision is being made and the Government needs to show the evidence behind its proposals.

"Yesterday the UK recorded more than 10,000 more cases than on the 10 December - when the Government in England moved to Plan B, introducing more protective measures, rather than removing them. Meanwhile ONS figures released yesterday show more than 1 in 20 people in England living with Covid-19 in the most recent week. 

"And while it is promising that hospitalisations are falling, there are still more than 13,000 patients suffering with Covid-19 in UK hospitals, showing that for a significant number of people this is not a mild disease. So any sharp rebound of case rates and hospitalisations as a result of this decision, could have a serious impact for the health service as would greater staff absence from illness – adding to the workforce shortage and further delaying providing non-Covid healthcare. 

"After two years we appreciate people want to see an end to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and with vaccination continuing to provide the best protection against serious illness and death for most people, continuing to encourage people to wear masks in crowded places, testing and isolating when infected will also be very important. For people who are clinically vulnerable, cannot be vaccinated or in whom vaccines are not as effective, removing these simple but key protective measures could mean they have to shut themselves away from society to avoid the risk of severe illness or death. 

"If the Government goes ahead with this plan, there must be clear public health guidance that people should not go to work, to educational settings, or socialise while ill and adequate sick pay must be guaranteed for everyone, including casual workers. It’s also crucial that  free testing for all will remain for the foreseeable future. We urge the Government to make good on its word to act on 'data and not dates', ensuring it is acting on the best available evidence and making the safety and wellbeing of the population its priority."

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.