There are “no plans” to cut the Covid isolation period in England to five days, a Government minister has said, amid speculation.

Recent changes to US isolation rules led to questions over whether further cuts to self-isolation time in the UK would ease pressure on the NHS.

But Chloe Smith, minister for disabled people, health and work, told BBC Breakfast: “There are no current plans in England to change that period.

“Of course, we have actually only recently taken it down from 10 to seven, and we want to look at that – we want to make sure that that is working as we believe it ought to.

“We think the current period, therefore, is the right one, so we haven’t any plans to change that further."

US health officials have halved the isolation period for people with asymptomatic Covid-19 from 10 to five days.

America's Centers for Disease Control said most transmissions happen in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

It comes just days after the Government moved England from 10-day to seven-day isolation, providing you take a test in the last two days.

NHS feeling the strain of Omicron cases

Staff absences in the NHS are creating such pressure that “even relatively small numbers of extra Covid cases may bring difficult decisions on prioritisation and staff redeployment”, according to NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said “staff absence is a huge issue for the NHS right now” on top of about 100,000 vacancies that already existed.

Asked if the self-isolation period for Covid should be cut to five days to free up more staff, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Government, with scientific advice, has to make an assessment of the balance of risk here, but it’s important to recognise that there are risks to anything that we do, and if we were to reduce to five days that would have to be based on very clear evidence that is not going to increase the rate of infection.”

He suggested the evidence was not yet there, adding that Omicron was a new variant and there had been a rise in hospital admissions.

“The news about the acuity of those patients is good,” he added.

“It seems as though they are suffering less bad symptoms, and indeed many people who’ve got Covid are not coming to hospital because of Covid and it’s then been subsequently found out – that’s good.

“It’s also important to recognise the hospitals are full of people who are very vulnerable and, for those people, even a relatively mild form of the virus can have serious consequences, so whilst anyone in the NHS would be delighted if people were able to come back to work earlier, if they are safe, we need to be absolutely sure that that is the case.”

Mr Taylor said it was “too early” to make a judgment on whether Government action so far had been the right course, adding that although there was a balance to be struck, “we mustn’t underestimate the challenges facing the health service and we mustn’t be complacent about what’s happening because, at the moment, we still do not have a fully informed picture”.

Meanwhile shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government should avoid “rushing into” cutting Covid isolation times.

Asked about calls for the isolation period to be reduced to five days, he told Sky News: “I think we should always follow the advice of our leading scientists, medical scientists like Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, and I don’t think they’ve given an opinion on this.”

He added: “Let’s see what they say on this before rushing into this.”

Mr Ashworth said politicians “should always be careful to listen to scientific experts”.