As schools and universities prepare for the return of students following the summer break, we examine the guidelines and guidance regarding Covid.

What’s the current status?

The current situation presents a mixed picture. According to the most recent data for England from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Covid case rates and hospital admission rates, as identified through hospital testing, have stabilised after recent increases, although they were relatively low to begin with.

However, some data, such as that obtained from swabs of GP patients as part of a monitoring initiative, suggests a potential uptick in case rates. Additionally, there has been a rise in A&E visits for Covid-like symptoms.

Furthermore, a new variant, named BA2.86, has entered the scene. Scientists are closely monitoring it due to its numerous genetic mutations, which raise concerns about its potential to evade immunity from vaccination and prior infection. Nonetheless, experts emphasize that there is insufficient data at present to accurately assess the risk posed by this variant.

Are there any rules and regulations?

The last legal restrictions related to Covid were lifted last year, leading to the end of regulations governing social gatherings, mask-wearing mandates, and self-isolation requirements.

In England, a “living with Covid” strategy was implemented instead.

The government attributed this shift largely to the success of the vaccination campaign and the development of improved treatments for those afflicted with the virus.

What should I do if I contract Covid?

While legal restrictions have been lifted, experts advise the continued observance of certain precautions.

If adults or children exhibit Covid-like symptoms, experience a fever, or generally feel unwell, the NHS recommends that they attempt to stay at home and minimize contact with others. However, children with mild symptoms can still attend school or childcare if they are feeling well enough.

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The NHS advises individuals under the age of 18 to remain at home and minimize contact with others for a duration of three days following a positive Covid test result. For those aged 18 and over, the recommended isolation period extends to five days. Both age groups are also encouraged to refrain from interacting with vulnerable individuals for the subsequent 10 days.

Professor John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggested that additional preventive measures could also prove beneficial. He noted that while a widespread resurgence of mask-wearing and regular hand washing may be unlikely, these practices can still contribute to reducing the spread of the virus.

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