The Prime Minister has been urged to cut isolation for schoolchildren to five days, to minimise lost learning.
The Government is accused of “perpetuating a cycle of disruption” in schools by continuing to advocate a mass Covid testing regime for healthy pupils.
Pupils across the country are preparing to return to the classroom this week, following the Christmas break.
But there is mounting concern that they will face yet another term of interrupted education, if large numbers of both students and teachers are forced into isolation after testing positive with omicron.
Ministers recently cut the isolation period from 10 to seven days for those with Covid, as long as they test negative on a lateral flow on day six and seven of their quarantine period.
MPs are now urging the Government to slash the isolation period further and make it five days for asymptomatic children – as long as they have tested negative with lateral flows – to minimise their time stuck at home.
Robert Halfon, the Tory chairman of the education select committee and a former minister, said the Government should “seriously consider” cutting isolation periods for healthy children, as well as teachers.
“The most important priority the Government should have is to keep children in school, he said.
“If that means reducing the quarantine period from seven days to five days so more teachers can be in school, it’s absolutely something they should consider.”
“And the Government should seriously consider applying this to children so they can get back to learning again.”
Countries cut isolation period for asymptomatic cases
Last week, the US announced that those who test positive for Covid will have their self-isolation period cut from 10 to five days if they are asymptomatic.
America’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the guidance comes with growing evidence that the virus is most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms appear.
Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said that not all Covid cases are severe, adding: “In fact many are going to be asymptomatic. We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”
Olivier Veran, the French health minister, followed suit on Sunday, saying that the isolation period for fully vaccinated people who test positive could be lifted after five days with a negative test.
Other Tory MPs backed the move, including Miriam Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who said the isolation period should “absolutely” be cut to five days for children, adding: “I would support anything that would get children back into school quicker.”
She said that continuing with the mass testing programme for children “totally lacks common sense”, saying it is “ridiculous” when the “vast majority” of children do not suffer from Covid symptoms.