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US halves isolation guidelines for asymptomatic Covid

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US health authorities on Monday halved the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic Covid-19 infections from 10 to five days, with a surge of cases causing travel chaos and threatening wider social disruption.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement announcing the change.

“These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

The CDC recommendations, which are non-binding but closely followed by US businesses and policymakers, suggested that the five-day isolation period be “followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.”

The agency said the new guidelines were “motivated by science,” which had demonstrated that the majority of Covid-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally one to two days prior to the onset of symptoms and in the two to three days after.

The CDC also updated recommendations for individuals exposed to Covid-19 who are either unvaccinated or booster-eligible but have yet to get one.

For these populations the CDC said it “now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days” after exposure.

“Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure,” the CDC said.

The updates come as the highly transmissible Omicron strain has sent cases skyrocketing across the United States, once again disrupting lives and a global economy battered by almost two years of the pandemic.

With Omicron now the country’s dominant strain, more than 200,000 daily cases were recorded over the past two days, quickly approaching records set last January.

President Joe Biden earlier in the day said some US hospitals could be “overrun” but that the country is generally well prepared to meet the latest surge and Americans need not “panic.”

Biden stressed that the rapid spread of Omicron would not have the same impact as the initial outbreak of Covid-19 or the Delta variant surge this year.

Walensky emphasized that “prevention is our best option.”

“Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather,” she said.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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