People who self-isolate after testing positive should be given a “freedom pass” enabling them to do whatever they want for three months, MPs have been told. 

Sir John Bell, Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said the current contact tracing system was “massively ineffective” and would be “much improved” by quarantining people with a positive test result and symptoms. 

He told the Science and Technology committee chair Greg Clark: “My view is you test people, if they have got a positive result you ask them to quarantine for two weeks, and ensure they quarantine for two weeks, and if they behave themselves you give them a freedom pass for three months.

“You say ‘you have had the disease, you can go and do anything you want for three months – it is fine’,” he added. 

“If they test negative you can then have a couple of days freedom because you know that they are not infected. If they are a contact you test them every other day but leave them to go about their business in the real world, so there are advantages to everybody from this.

“The negatives do better, the positives do better and people will want to be tested because it’s an opportunity to get back to normal life.”

Asked if people with symptoms who got a negative result should isolate anyway, he said the “data was very clear” this was unnecessary.

 “95 per cent of people with symptoms do not have this disease – most people with these symptoms are hypochondriacs,” he explained. “If you use symptoms as the only way of identifying people you will be locking down a lot of people who shouldn’t be locked down.”

Speaking to the Commons this afternoon Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, suggested he would consider such a move.

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