Isolation periods reviewed in various countries

WASHINGTON / LONDON — Some countries have begun to shorten the isolation period for people who have had close contact with those infected with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new guideline late last year that recommends shortening the isolation period of close contacts from 10 days to five days.

The CDC said the virus is typically transmitted from an infected person to others in a period that runs from one or two days before the newly infected person shows symptoms to two or three days afterward.

The CDC has concluded that there would be no problem with shortening the isolation period.

It also said isolation is not necessary for close contacts who have completed a booster dose of the vaccine, provided they wear masks in public places.

Its decision comes in response to a shortage of manpower in such fields as medical and transportation services as the infection spreads.

According to U.S. media reports, about 1,200 hospitals in the United States are facing a shortage of doctors and nurses, causing difficulties in treating patients.

The state of California has temporarily allowed healthcare workers who have been infected with coronavirus but are asymptomatic to carry on with their duties until Feb. 1, on condition that they wear medical masks.

In December last year, the British government decided that England — where the majority of the population lives — does not require 10 days of voluntary isolation for close contacts if they have completed vaccination.

Instead, the government recommends that people check their infection status with a simple test every day.

In Britain, many railway, school and medical workers have been absent due to infection with the virus or close contact with infected people, with effects including a reduction in train services.

The personnel shortage is particularly serious in the medical field, where emergency patients sometimes have to wait for more than an hour to be brought to the hospital. The British government has sent about 200 military medics to London to cover the personnel shortage.

The German government announced on Jan. 7 that the isolation period would be shortened from 14 days to 10 days in principle for people infected with the novel coronavirus or those who have been in close contact with infected people.

The period can be shortened further if PCR tests show negative results. The German government has decided that people who have received a booster dose of vaccine do not need to be quarantined even if they become a close contact.