You should still isolate if you have Covid-19, says Professor Sir Chris Whitty

The Prime Minister set out the Government’s strategy for ‘living with Covid’ on Monday afternoon.

21 February 2022

England’s chief medical officer has said people should still isolate if they have Covid-19 despite the legal requirement ending on Thursday.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty said it is “standard public health advice” as he warned that while rates are coming down it is “still a very common infection”.

Prof Whitty and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also highlighted the importance of ongoing surveillance of the virus.

Speaking at a Downing Street Press conference, Prof Whitty said: “As we look at the next weeks, we still have high rates of Omicron and I would urge people in terms of public health advice, and this is very much the Government’s position, that people should still if they have Covid try to prevent other people getting it and that means self-isolating.

“So, that is the public health advice.

“It would have been the public health advice, and will be the public health advice, for multiple other diseases.

“If you had Norovirus we would give exactly the same public health advice.

“So this is standard public health advice for a significant and highly transmissible infection.”

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 21, 2022
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street (Tolga Akmen/PA)

Prof Whitty said good surveillance, capacity to rapidly step up and protecting the most vulnerable are “the critical things that we need to maintain even beyond this next few weeks into the rest of this year and the rest of the way that we continue to manage this epidemic”.

Sir Patrick said Covid will continue to evolve over the next couple of years, adding that there was no guarantee that future variants would be less severe.

He too said it was essential to maintain a virus surveillance system, the capacity to “ramp up” measures again quickly and to protect the vulnerable.

Sir Patrick told the press conference: “This pandemic is not over.

“The virus is continuing to evolve.

“It will continue to do so quite fast probably for the next couple of years.”

He added: “We expect there to be further variants and they could be more severe.”

Prof Whitty also said new variants are expected, saying: “Some of those new variants will just disappear, but some of them will cause us significant problems and they could be either more vaccine escaping but as severe as Omicron, but the net effect would be actually more people end up in hospital because a lot of our protection is from vaccination, or it could be more intrinsically severe, because Omicron came from a much earlier variant.”

Prof Whitty said we “could certainly end up with something which is more likely to lead to hospitalisations than Omicron”, adding that winters are expected to be “tricky” even in the absence of significant new variants due to the combination of Covid, flu and other respiratory problems.

Boris Johnson said there will likely be another variant that will “cause us trouble”.

He said: “I don’t want you to think that there’s some division between the gung-ho politicians and the cautious, anxious scientists, much as it may suit everybody to say so.

“We have a very clear view of this.

“This has not gone away.

“We’re able to make these changes now because of the vaccines and the high level of immunity and all the other considerations about Omicron that you’ve seen.

“But we have to face the fact that there could be, likely will be, another variant that will cause us trouble.

“But I believe that thanks to a lot of the stuff that we’ve done, particularly investment in vaccines and vaccine technology and therapeutics, we’ll be in a far better position to tackle that new variant when it comes.”

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