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Boris Johnson is under new pressure to speed up plans to exempt fully vaccinated adults from Covid quarantine after the Welsh government announced it would introduce the decision from August 7.
Double-bite adults in Wales will no longer have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with the virus, with the change starting nine days earlier than England’s August 16 deadline.
The PM insisted this week that his own date for the major policy change was “nailed down” and Downing Street confirmed on Thursday that he was “quite adamant” on his timetable.
But Tory MPs and businesses crippled by staff shortages will certainly demand a similar acceleration in England after new figures show the ‘pingemia’ has reached an all-time high.
Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect (TTP) service will use the Welsh Immunization Service to identify fully vaccinated adults who will no longer be required to self-isolate.
He added that children in Wales will also be exempt from home quarantine from August 7 – the day the country is finally expected to come out of most Covid restrictions, known as ‘level zero’ .
Drakeford stressed that all people who test positive for the coronavirus or show symptoms should continue to self-isolate for 10 days, whether or not they have been vaccinated.
“We know that a full cycle of the vaccine gives people protection against the virus and that they are much less likely to contract it when identified as close contacts. This means they no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days, ”he said.
“We can remove the need for self-isolation for the two million adults who have completed their vaccination course, helping keep Wales safe and working.”
Wales is keen to ease the pressure on vital services caused by the recent rapid increase in Covid cases, driven by the delta variant in the past two months.
Cases have increased 800% since the end of May, when they were at very low levels. Over the past week, case rates have started to drop across all parts of Wales.
The acceleration of the exemption date is also partly due to the fact that 80% of adults in Wales have been fully vaccinated – the best rates in the UK and among the best in the world. In England, the double prick figure is 71%.
Some 689,313 alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The latest NHS figures, for the week through July 21, were an 11% increase from the previous record high of 619,733 alerts a week earlier.
Starting August 7, instead of asking fully vaccinated adults to self-isolate, contact tracers and counselors in Wales will provide advice and guidance on how to protect themselves and stay safe.
The TTP service will provide a “warn and inform” service for all fully vaccinated adults and those under 18, who are identified as close contacts.
Some additional safeguards will be put in place for those working with vulnerable people, especially health and social workers, including a risk assessment for staff working in health and care and daily lateral flow testing.
Members of the public will be strongly discouraged from visiting hospitals and nursing homes for 10 days.
Anyone identified as a contact of a positive case will continue to be counseled – but not required – to undergo a PCR test on days two and eight, whether or not they are fully vaccinated.
The new policy will affect adults where 14 days have passed since their last dose of the vaccine.
Separately, on Thursday, the Welsh government announced that young adults aged 17 and 9 months were now advised to book a jab or attend walk-in vaccination clinics for their first dose.
Again, this is ahead of England and appears to be due to the country’s higher vaccination rate.
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