A statement from the CMOs for all four UK nations said there was increasing evidence that people may remain infectious between seven and nine days after initial onset of symptoms. Increasing the isolation period would help reduce the risk of further spread and provide additional protection to those at greater risk, they said.
'We have considered how best to target interventions to reduce risk to the general population and consider that at this point in the epidemic, with widespread and rapid testing available and considering the relaxation of other measures, it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period from seven to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result,' the statement said.
The CMOs said that the change could also help mitigate the impact of a spike in infections that could come later in the year.
'This will help provide additional protection to others in the community. This is particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission,' the statement said.
It added: 'Evidence, although still limited, has strengthened and shows that people with COVID-19 who are mildly ill and are recovering have a low but real possibility of infectiousness between 7 and 9 days after illness onset.'
The change brings the UK in line with the World Health Organization's recommendation for 10 days isolation. It comes amid concerns about rising infection rates in some parts of England and increased cases in other countries.