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Ho ho home alone: Up to 900,000 Brits will spend Christmas in self-isolation after catching Covid

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Nearly 900,000 people could be forced to spend Christmas Day in self-isolation after catching Covid in the past 10 days, MailOnline analysis shows.

A total of 766,000 people across the UK have tested positive for the virus since December 16 — the cut-off date for coming out of quarantine in time.

And 122,000 more Britons were diagnosed today as the ultra-infectious Omicron variant pushes cases to record numbers.

It means around 888,000 people could be barred from visiting loved ones, attending Midnight Mass or going on a Christmas Day walk this year.

Thousands more people in Scotland who don’t have the virus but are close contacts of a positive case also face compulsory quarantine tomorrow.

But social media users reported suffering no or mild symptoms such as a runny nose and questioned why their festive celebrations should be ruined again – with some saying they would see family despite a positive test result.

Others started a blame game with their friends and family, pointing the finger at those they claimed passed on the virus and ruined their Christmas.

In one case, a mother was left incensed at her brother-in-law who she said ‘casually brought up’ that he had tested positive for Covid on a PCR just five days earlier – after she was in his house during a visit to bring Christmas gifts.

The woman wrote on Mumsnet: ‘Went to visit my sister today to give Xmas gifts and her partner was moping about in a dressing gown of doom, shuffling into the room like a s*** ghost, standing there giving it a mixture between puppy dog and psycho eyes. Unsettling on its own. BUT THEN!!! He casually brought up that he tested positive for Covid on PCR five days ago, but it’s fine because he’s allowed out of isolation tomorrow under the new rules. 

‘Punctuated by sneezing INTO THE ROOM. I asked him if he was joking, he said no, I said “right, well, I’m off then. And I don’t know if you know, but you have to test negative for two days on lateral flow to be allowed out of isolation”. Sister looked like she was about to cry, her partner looked both caught out and offended and said to my sister “I told you there would be snowflakes at Christmas”.’

She added that her husband and daughter are both clinically vulnerable – and her niece, who was expecting her to visit, is extremely clinical vulnerable so she had to cancel seeing her.

The mother added: ‘I’ve had a text from my sister saying that her partner feels humiliated by my leaving. I said I feel outraged that I wasn’t told beforehand that he had Covid given that my loved ones at home could become very ill and it’s b****y Christmas as well – I don’t want the day ruined for the kids because I or they are poorly. She said she understands that, but her partner wants an apology from me.’

New rules designed to limit the damage to the economy and vital services mean infected people in England can come out of isolation after seven days so long as they test negative on lateral flows.

This potentially allows the 243,000 people who tested positive for Covid between December 16 and 18 in England to release from quarantine in time for the festivities. The isolation period remains 10 days for the rest of the UK.

A record 119,789 Covid cases were recorded on Thursday marking the second day in a row they had been above 100,000 — but cases were up only a third in a week despite gloomy modelling suggesting Omicron is doubling every two days.

Key Government studies have indicated that Omicron is up to 70 per cent less likely to hospitalise someone than Delta, in line with growing evidence in South Africa that shows the new strain is much milder.

And MailOnline’s analysis of NHS figures shows that two-third of new Omicron admissions in the past fortnight were not primarily for the virus, in another sign that the variant is weaker.

But there are growing fears that large case numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing huge disruption from people being off work and threatening key services including the NHS, police and national grid.

More than 650,000 Britons will be forced to spend Christmas in self-isolation after catching Covid in just over a week. If cases continue to rise in line with current trends, around 890,000 could be barred from leaving their home. The rapid rise of the ultra-infectious Omicron variant has resulted in 766,000 people across the UK testing positive for Covid since December 16 and current trends suggest 125,000 more Britons will be diagnosed today. New rules designed to limit the damage to the economy and vital services mean infected people in England can come out of isolation after seven days so long as they test negative on lateral flows. This could potentially allow 243,000 people who received their positive result between December 16 and 18 to release from quarantine in time for the festivities

A record 119,789 Covid cases were recorded on Thursday marking the second day in a row they had been above 100,000 — but cases were up only a third in a week despite gloomy modelling suggesting Omicron is doubling every two days

A record 119,789 Covid cases were recorded on Thursday marking the second day in a row they had been above 100,000 — but cases were up only a third in a week despite gloomy modelling suggesting Omicron is doubling every two days

The confirmed Covid case rate per 100,000 people in areas across the UK according to official UK Health Security Agency data. London is recording rates up to four times higher than the national average after becoming the country's Omicron hotspot

The confirmed Covid case rate per 100,000 people in areas across the UK according to official UK Health Security Agency data. London is recording rates up to four times higher than the national average after becoming the country’s Omicron hotspot

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A total of 888,000 people have tested positive for Covid since December 16, the cut-off date for coming out of isolation in time for Christmas. 

Such high infection numbers are putting strain on vital services, particularly in London which has become the UK’s Omicron hotspot.

What are the reasons to legally leave the house while self-isolating? 

The exceptional circumstances where you may leave self-isolation are to:

  • post a PCR test or antibody test at a Royal Mail priority post box
  • attend (or accompany a child to) a COVID-19 testing site
  • take part in NHS COVID-19 research, but only if you are asked to leave self-isolation
  • agree to take part in a testing scheme where that agreement cannot be given from home
  • get urgent health services for you, your family and pets
  • avoid harm, for instance if there is a fire or you are at risk of domestic abuse
  • move to a different place when it becomes impractical to stay where you are, for instance, if your house has been damaged by a fire or flood
  • access critical public services, including social services, and to access services provided to victims of crime, for instance if there has been a burglary 
  • get food or medicine if you cannot order it online or by phone, or you cannot ask someone to bring it to your home
  • go to the funeral of a close family member
  • meet legal duties such as going to court, taking part in court proceedings, or following bail conditions

There are some exemptions that do not apply if you have tested positive for Covid, and are therefore only for unvaccinated people who have been a close contact. These are to:

  • take part in NHS COVID-19 research
  • help someone who is pregnant to go to a medical appointment, or to give birth

NHS staff absences have more than tripled this month, one in seven doctors are off sick and 500 Transport for London workers are absent.

The situation in the UK healthcare system is at its most critical in the capital, where absence levels are three times higher than at the start of the month – with Guy’s & St Thomas’ and King’s College trusts particularly badly hit.

Nearly 14 per cent doctors in London are off sick, while the London Ambulance Service has had absence levels of 12 per cent – and NHS chiefs said they were already ‘busier at this time of year than we’ve ever been before’.

But there are hopes things could improve after Ministers said people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full ten days.

Hospitals are struggling to fill rotas and there are rising concerns that other care could suffer as staff are once again redeployed to virus wards, with the biggest issues arising in the capital which is the Omicron epicentre.

The new figures come as the Covid-19 variant continues to cause a nationwide surge in cases, with recorded case rates of Covid across the UK rising above 100,000 yesterday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Across the UK, more than one in ten (10.5 per cent) doctors are off work and one in 24 (4.2 per cent) due to Covid. In London these figures increase to one in seven (13.9 per cent) off work and one in 13 (7.4 per cent) for Covid.

The situation is also affecting rail travel, with operators blaming coronavirus-related staff shortages for widespread cancellations during the Christmas getaway period – and Transport for London now closing a whole Tube line.

The Waterloo and City line has been shut until early next month so drivers can instead keep the far-busier Central line running. About 500 ‘non-office based’ TfL staff are currently absent due to Covid.

The line, which links Waterloo station with the City, had been shut since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 due to low demand before reopening in June 2021. In 2019, it was only closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Other emergency services such as police forces have also been hit by staff absences, although the Metropolitan Police insisted it was ‘continuing to provide a resilient and strong policing service to London’.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said absence rates were ‘not currently impacting on our ability to provide our normal service to the public’ – with current sickness levels said to be below the 8 per cent peak in January.

ENGLAND: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid infection survey estimated 1.2million people were carrying Covid on any given day in England during the week in the week up to December 16 — an all-time record

ENGLAND: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid infection survey estimated 1.2million people were carrying Covid on any given day in England during the week in the week up to December 16 — an all-time record

And Health Secretary Sajid Javid hailed ‘encouraging’ evidence that the Omicron strain is milder than Delta amid hopes a New Year lockdown can be avoided – despite SAGE experts warning the UK is still in the ‘danger zone’. 

London ICU doctor admits number of patients testing positive for Covid AFTER arriving at hospital for something else is a ‘major problem’ 

The growing number of people testing positive for Covid after coming into hospital for another illness is a ‘major problem’, an intensive care doctor in Omicron hotspot London admitted today.

There is growing pressure from experts and politicians to distinguish between admissions from Covid and patients with the virus after MailOnline yesterday revealed up to two-thirds of new coronavirus patients are not being treated by the NHS because of the disease.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay said that this distinction is vital before ministers can make any decision on further lockdown curbs because it will show how much pressure the NHS is actually under.

In the two weeks to December 21, hospitals in England recorded 563 new coronavirus inpatients — the majority of which are believed to be Omicron now that the variant is the country’s dominant stain. 

But just 197 (35 per cent) were being primarily treated for Covid, with the remaining 366 (65 per cent) only testing positive after being admitted for something else. 

Dr Zudin Puthucheary, a member of the Intensive Care Society and physician in London, said the number of patients coming into hospital who ‘happen to be Covid positive’ is skewing the statistics. 

And he added the figures are further boosted by the number of people catching the virus on wards — with separate data showing 31 per cent of patients test positive seven days after treatment for other illnesses.

People who are self-isolating are still able to attend a funeral, go food shopping or even take their pet to the vet in limited circumstances under official legislation.

The little-known exemptions mean hundreds of thousands of Brits who may have thought they were unable to leave the house at all over Christmas can in fact do so.

The rules apply to anyone who is self-isolating by law – which includes those who have tested positive for Covid-19 or unvaccinated Britons who are close contacts.

They apply in the ‘Meaning of self-isolate’ section 2A of the ‘Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020’.

Other examples include going to court or taking part in legal proceedings when required – or accessing dentists, opticians or chiropractors in an emergency.

But the UK Health Security Agency insists these are ‘exceptional circumstances’, and you ‘should have considered all other options first’ before going out.

Officials have added that if people have ‘no other options’ and have to go out, they should ‘think about how you can limit contact with other people’.

Social media users pushed back on the guidance today as they said they felt no or mild symptoms and did not want another Christmas away from their friends and family.

One man wrote: ‘Devastated I tested positive for COVID which means spending my first Christmas truly alone, which would have been weird after a breakup anyway.

‘But I have my health and no symptoms, I have a beautiful home and I have people who love me. I am grateful. I am happy.’

Gary Pigott said: ‘Whatever it means, no symptoms = no illness & also the majority of people testing positive seem to have mild symptoms which is all positive news.

‘So here’s hoping for a 2022 where COVID is endemic & we can start returning to the old normal. I for one miss seeing smiling faces.’

A woman put: ‘We need more rapid tests tho bc I need to test myself (no symptoms) and I need to get the baby and Tyler tested too.

‘Their daddy is vaxxed and boosted, his tests both came negative so right now just the girls are confirmed positive. This is a cluster f*** of epic proportions.’

Rhea Crosbie said: ‘Sorry but I am literally isolating for having a SNOTTY NOSE no other symptoms not even a cough and every test is positive. So ridiculous #COVID19.’

Other said even if they test positive for the virus they would not be isolating over the Christmas period for the mild symptoms they have developed.

One man posted: ‘No way in hell I will report any symptoms. I will be going to the drug store today to pick up cold med just in case I get a runny nose.

‘Wonder how many people will do this as well. It’s not just covid out there…there are regular colds. I’m not isolating for a cold.’

A woman put: ‘Even with a negative test the official advice is to still isolate just in case you have covid but the test didn’t pick it up.

‘Boll**ks to that, I’m not isolating for a cold. I’ll stay in if I’m poorly and mask up if I go out so I don’t give some poor bugger a cold for Christmas.’

And another added: ‘If someone gives me covid i’m not isolating, i physically can’t or i will die because i have no help.

So if they give it to me i’ll have to take a bunch of people with me, sorry not sorry. i can’t feel bad spreading a virus among people who don’t care if i starve to death.’

One man said online: ‘If I isolated every time I’ve come into contact with someone that has covid I would’ve had to take probably at least 60 days off this year alone, who’s covering that?’

He added: ‘My employer? Taxpayer? Am I just eating that cost? By not isolating I’m helping the taxpayer, my boss, and myself.’

A woman from Colchester posted on Twitter: ‘I’m not isolating after not catching covid. I’ve done nothing I’m meant to, no jabs, no distancing, no masks. I won’t lock me down.’

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The Covid blame game! Family, friends and housemates turn on each other for ‘ruining’ their festivities as they are struck down with illness just days before Christmas

Charades, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly are the type of popular games you might expect to play with friends and family at Christmas.

But this year there could be a new addition to the Christmas activities list – the Covid blame game. 

With cases on the rise and the Omicron strain spreading rapidly, families and friends have already taken to social media to accuse loved ones of giving them Covid, forcing them into isolation ahead of the festive holidays.

And while some have kept the finger-pointing light-hearted, others have accused friends, house-mates and family members of ‘ruining’ their Christmas.

But some people accused friends, house-mates and family members of ‘ruining’ their Christmas by giving them Covid.

One Twitter user wrote: ‘My brother has definitely given me Covid. If I scream! This is honestly the last thing I need.’

Another, Tweeting last week, said: ‘If Oliver has got and given me Covid a week before Christmas, I’ll be in a big fat mood.’

One Twitter said her boyfriend was ‘getting coal for Christmas’ because she was being forced to stay inside for 10 days after giving her Covid.’

It comes as an intensive care doctor in Omicron hotspot London admitted today.the growing number of people testing positive for Covid after coming into hospital for another illness is a ‘major problem’.

There is growing pressure from experts and politicians to distinguish between admissions from Covid and patients with the virus after MailOnline yesterday revealed up to two-thirds of new coronavirus patients are not being treated by the NHS because of the disease.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay said that this distinction is vital before ministers can make any decision on further lockdown curbs because it will show how much pressure the NHS is actually under.

In the two weeks to December 21, hospitals in England recorded 563 new coronavirus inpatients — the majority of which are believed to be Omicron now that the variant is the country’s dominant stain. 

But just 197 (35 per cent) were being primarily treated for Covid, with the remaining 366 (65 per cent) only testing positive after being admitted for something else. 

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Dr Zudin Puthucheary, a member of the Intensive Care Society and physician in London, said the number of patients coming into hospital who ‘happen to be Covid positive’ is skewing the statistics. 

And he added the figures are further boosted by the number of people catching the virus on wards — with separate data showing 31 per cent of patients test positive seven days after treatment for other illnesses.

Ministers are keeping a close eye on hospitalisation statistics in the capital, with lockdown restrictions expected to be brought down if admissions exceed 400 a day.

The figure is considered to be the breaking point of the NHS — despite daily admissions reaching 977 in January during the height of the last winter wave of the pandemic. The latest data show hospitalisations are currently just shy of the threshold, with 301 Covid patients admitted on Monday.

MailOnline’s analysis suggests just over four in 10 new Omicron hospital patients in London were admitted for a different reason. 

Revealed: You can still attend a funeral, go food shopping or take your pet to the vet EVEN if you’re self-isolating with Covid at Christmas (but only in an emergency)

FUNERALS 

All those self-isolating can ‘attend a funeral of a close family member’, including your parents, siblings or children. It does not cover uncles, aunties, nieces or nephews.

A ‘close relative’ is defined in law under the The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) Regulations 2005 as a ‘parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-son-in-law, step-daughter, step-daughter-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, sister or sister-in-law’.

GOING SHOPPING 

The rules also give self-isolating Britons a right to ‘obtain basic necessities, such as food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) where it is not possible to obtain these provisions in any other manner’.

This means you could not simply go out to buy food shopping if you are able to order it online or get a friend or neighbour to deliver it – so this would only apply in very limited circumstances. 

ANIMAL CARE AND HEALTHCARE 

You also have the chance to ‘access veterinary services, where this is required urgently or on the advice of a veterinary surgeon’, effectively meaning you could take your pet for medical treatment at the vet in an emergency situation.   

Furthermore, self-isolating Britons are allowed to leave their home to ‘seek medical assistance, where this is required urgently or on the advice of a registered medical practitioner’.

This includes accessing ‘services from dentists, opticians, audiologists, chiropodists, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health practitioners, or services relating to mental health’.

GOING TO COURT 

Another exemption is that you can leave home ‘to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or participating in legal proceedings’.  

They can also leave home to ‘access critical public services, including social services, and services provided to victims (such as victims of crime)’.

FLEEING HOME 

Self-isolating Britons can also flee ‘to escape a risk of harm’ – an exemption to help those suffering domestic abuse. 

Other exemptions allow people to ‘move to a different place specified in paragraph 1a, where it becomes impracticable to remain at the place at which they are’.

These locations listed in the law under ‘1a’ are your home, the home of a friend or family member; bed and breakfast accommodation; accommodation ‘provided or arranged under section 4, 95 or 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999’, or ‘another suitable place’.

COVID TESTING 

Other exemptions include going to an official coronavirus testing site, or accompanying a child to this location so they can take a test.

You can also leave home to post a completed Covid-19 home test carried out by yourself or anyone else living in the same household. 

And you can agree to participate in a testing scheme ‘where that agreement cannot be given from the place’ where you are self-isolating. 

HELPING EXPECTANT MOTHERS 

There are also a number of further limited exemptions which do not apply if you have tested positive for Covid, and are therefore only for unvaccinated people who have been a close contact, who must still self-isolate under law. 

One of these is that you can accompany ‘an expectant mother to any medical appointment related to the pregnancy throughout the antenatal period’, at that mother’s request.

‘The antenatal period’ is defined within the law as the ‘period beginning with the start of the pregnancy and ending with the onset of labour’. 

How long do you have to self-isolate for if you test positive for Covid? 

The self-isolation period for people who have tested positive for coronavirus has been cut to a week in most cases.  

From yesterday, people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

This applies to members of the general public who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The Government intends to amend the current coronavirus regulations to reflect the new guidance when Parliament returns.

Until then, people who follow the new guidance will be regarded as having a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to complete the full self-isolation period. 

Self-isolating people who have not tested positive for Covid – ie only unvaccinated close contacts – can also attend ‘an expectant mother giving birth’, again at the expectant mother’s request.

People within this bracket can also take part in ‘NHS Covid-19 research’.

OFFICIAL GUIDANCE 

The UKHSA says in its guidance: ‘In exceptional circumstances, you may need to temporarily leave self-isolation. You should have considered all other options first.’

It continues: ‘If you have no other options, you should think about how you can limit contact with other people.’

It adds that there is support for people who are self-isolating available through local authorities if you cannot rely on help from family, friends and neighbours. 

ISOLATION RULE CHANGE

The details have emerged as more than 280,000 people infected with the virus, who were facing Christmas alone, can now safely enjoy festivities with their families after a change in isolation rules.

Health chiefs yesterday announced those who test positive for Covid can be released after seven days, rather than 10, providing they take two lateral flow tests at the end of that period.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said infected patients can take the tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period, which if negative means they can stop quarantining.

This means the 102,875 people who tested positive on December 15, the 95,058 positive cases the following day, and a further 82,945 people who contracted the virus on December 17, will be free to enjoy Christmas together with loved ones under the new rules.

It has also been hailed as a major boost to the NHS, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid reportedly among those concerned at the number of staff who have been off work with the virus under the 10-day rule. 

However, unvaccinated adults who have come into contact with someone infected with Covid must still self-isolate until 10 days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10342241/Ho-ho-home-900-000-Brits-spend-Christmas-self-isolation-catching-Covid.html