In the United States, people can now leave isolation if they have no symptoms after five days, followed by five days where they have to wear a mask around others. Last week, the UK reduced the period to seven days for people producing two consecutive negative lateral flow tests (rapid).
It comes amid record-breaking case numbers in both nations and mark the first time since Omicron emerged that major countries have deviated from the World Health Organization’s recommended 10-day isolation period.
But most countries still follow the 10-day marker, while others, such as Germany, require up to 14 days in isolation. The differences have led some to wonder exactly when and for how long people have been infected with the Omicron variant.
The measures were taken on the basis of concerns about the availability of key employees.
“If you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to their jobs – especially those with important jobs – to keep our community running,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, CNN this week.
But there is also some new data behind the changes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said their decision was “motivated by science showing that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of the disease, generally 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. “
An early CDC study, released Tuesday, examined an Omicron cluster in Nebraska and found that the time between exposure and infection – known as the incubation period – can be around three days. It is shorter than the Delta strain, which studies estimate has a four-day incubation period.
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A similar study of a Christmas party in Norway, where dozens were infected, found comparable results.
“There is accumulating evidence, for vaccinated people, that if we are asymptomatic, it is very unlikely that we are contagious after about five to seven days,” said Brown University Associate Dean of Public Health, Dr. Megan Ranney, Tuesday.
New evidence that Omicron may be less serious than Delta has probably also played a role in the movements.
But the new guidelines have still given rise to some debate in the medical community, where experts have not yet fully understood Omicron.
“For the unvaccinated, the data do not really confirm that you become non-contagious after five days,” said Dr. Ranney.
“I’m pretty worried about these new recommendations.”
She suggested having another guide for unvaccinated people until more data comes in – which could also have the “extra boost” of encouraging people to take the vaccine if they have not already done so.
Erin Bromage, a biology professor at UMass Dartmouth, added on CNN on Wednesday that there is “absolutely no data that I am aware of” to support the shift in guidance.
He added that people can still test positive for antigen testing up to seven or eight days after their first test, even if they have no symptoms. Unlike the UK, where there are several antigen tests, the US guide is not dependent on getting a negative result.
Omicron is nevertheless tearing through the workforce in several countries, and it is likely that more nations will shorten their isolation periods in the new year if the burden on hospitals grows.
“With the sheer volume of new cases, one of the things we want to be careful about is that we don’t have that many people out,” said Dr. Fauci.
The effects of COVID-19 in Latin America are diminishing
Many Latin American countries were hit by rising COVID-19 death rates early in the pandemic as coronavirus raged across the region.
The tide is turning in many Latin American nations today, with vaccination rates surpassing countries in Europe and North America and helping reduce deaths, writes Tim Lister.
Vaccine rollout was slow at first and it was a big problem to get the vaccines in hand. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean reported just under half of all COVID-19-related deaths worldwide.
Now the region accounts for about 10 percent of global COVID-19-related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. This is due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homemade vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
One reason for these successful vaccination campaigns can be traced back to history: many countries in Latin America have long and trusted national inoculation efforts against other diseases, such as polio.
It’s time to upgrade your mask
As the Omicron variant continues to spread, some experts say it’s time to reconsider your face mask options, especially if you’re still wearing the clothing variant.
“Fabric masks are little more than face decorations. There is no room for them in the light of Omicron,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Ideally, in crowded places, “you should wear a KN95 or N95 mask,” which can be as cheap as a few dollars each, added Dr. Wen.
By having a better fit and certain materials – such as polypropylene fibers that act as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers – these masks better prevent small particles from entering your nose or mouth and need to be adjusted to your face to function properly.