ONE in 20 coronavirus patients are able to spread the bug two weeks after being infected, new Sage documents have revealed.
Scientists warned ministers that up to five per cent of people who had been admitted to hospital could be at risk of spreading Covid-19.
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The paper, presented to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on May 28, states that seriously-ill patients could be infectious for as many as 20 days.
Published today, it states that this group poses a “risk for onwards transmission to carers and cohabitants”.
The experts warn: “A risk-based approach is recommended, especially for people who will be discharged to an environment where they will interact with vulnerable people (e.g. nursing homes).”
Their recommendations are based on a review of available evidence on viral load in hospitalised patients with Covid-19 – both globally and in the UK.
The team – led by Professor Peter Horby, an epidemiologist from Oxford University – found that most people are not infectious 12 days after symptoms started.
But, the infectious disease experts added: “A very small minority of hospitalised individuals might remain infectious until day 20.”
They added that many of these patients will be elderly and could be returning to care homes.
So, to reduce the risk of onward transmission, staff and other residents should be given swab and antibody tests after recovering from the virus and before they return home.
The researchers say that a high level of antibodies in the blood is “likely to correlate with a low probability of infectiousness”.
The Government Office for Science, which is led by England’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, published 31 Sage documents today.
It is releasing the papers – which has helped advise the Government throughout the crisis – to show better transparency.
The reports include the detail which is presented to decision-making officials who decide how and when to adjust the country’s lockdown rules.
Other documents released today also revealed that opening schools would cause the reproduction ‘R’ number to rise above the crucial threshold one 1 – without a robust test and trace system.
A separate paper also revealed how the Government was told the coronavirus health messages tailored specifically for different ethnic groups are “particularly important”.
It was noted by Sage that tailored messaging alone cannot overcome all structural obstacles and fundamental sociological factors that may contribute to increased risk.
“In general, Covid-19 has increased all health inequalities – of which those related to ethnicity are one important example,” the document said.
A separate document summarising what was discussed at the June 4 Sage meeting said the increased risk from Covid-19 to BAME groups “should be urgently investigated” through social science research and biomedical research and “mitigated by policy makers”.
Two reports have been published by Public Health England (PHE) in recent weeks which suggested BAME communities are dying from Covid-19 at greater rates than people in white ethnic groups.
The earlier findings from PHE said that people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at around twice the rate of white Britons.
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It also found that other minority ethnic groups were at up to 50% higher risk of dying.
The second report pointed to a raft of recommendations from stakeholders, including the need to develop “occupational risk assessment tools that can be employed in a variety of occupational settings and used to reduce the risk of employee’s exposure to and acquisition of Covid-19”.
This is especially true for BAME workers in health and social care and on the front line in occupations that put them at higher risk, it said.