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Quarantine times to be cut as part of policy to ‘live with Covid’

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Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph)

Quarantine periods are to be cut from next week, the health minister revealed yesterday.

Kim Wilson added that schoolchildren would also switch from PCR tests to the antigen type.

Ms Wilson insisted that the changes to quarantine requirements would help people to get back to work after essential services were hit by staff shortages because of a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.

She said the quarantine reduction was part of a policy of “living with Covid” and that the Government had to be aware of the “economic impact” of isolation.

Ms Wilson added: “Certainly employers will no doubt welcome the news.”

She said: “There are agencies and organisations that are suffering as a result of persons being on quarantine.”

The changes will see:

• The quarantine period for people who test positive for the coronavirus cut from 14 days to 10 from January 20.

• The need for a negative PCR test at the end of the 14-day quarantine will be swapped for a verified clear antigen test at the end of the 10-day isolation period.

• The isolation for immunised people is to drop from ten days to seven days and will be ended by a negative antigen test.

• Immunised people who have a booster jab and who have been in close contact with a positive case will no longer have to quarantine but must get a clear antigen test on Day 7.

• Quarantine rules for people waiting to be repatriated overseas will switch to the rules of the traveller’s home country.

• The requirement for people to prove they have had a booster shot to get a new SafeKey has been pushed back by a month from January 15 to a February 15 start date.

Tinée Furbert, the acting education minister (File photograph)

Tinée Furbert, the acting education minister, admitted a test system backlog earlier this month which left most schools closed on the scheduled first day of term had provoked “fierce criticism”.

Ms Furbert blamed the delay on “unprecedented demand” being placed on test resources and apologised for the “inconvenience” caused to parents.

She added that a home antigen test programme would be launched at some schools this weekend.

The antigen regime will replace the rule that staff and pupils had to have a clear PCR test before they came back to class after a break.

Ms Furbert said the saliva test programme was “on pause” at present.

Antigen tests as accurate as PCR’s, says top doctor

Dr Wesley Miller, the Bermuda Hospitals Board Chief of Staff, said antigen tests were as reliable as the PCR type.

He added: “What has been shown in several works in the UK and elsewhere, whenever the incidence of Covid is high in any particular society or any group, the accuracy of the antigen testing is such that it matches the accuracy of the PCR to the extent that you don’t have to, say, keep somebody away and rely on PCR tests.

“And that is why it is widely used in the UK.”

General testing will move to home antigen testing, with tests provided free of charge, from next Wednesday.

Ms Furbert appealed to parents to supply accurate test results — and for them to keep their children at home if they tested positive.

She said: “Let us pull together to win together.”

She also outlined the retest schedule for school staff and pupils.

Preschoolers were retested on Monday and primary school pupils got retested yesterday and today.

Middle school students will be retested next Monday and parents of middle school pupils will be notified later of the test schedule for their children.

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Published January 14, 2022 at 11:27 am (Updated January 15, 2022 at 8:02 am)

Quarantine times to be cut as part of policy to ‘live with Covid’

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