Covid-19HealthHighlightsNews

Prime Minister Sets Out Plan for Living with COVID

All Covid restrictions will end in England on Thursday and free mass testing will stop from 1 April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs the legal duty to isolate for those who tested positive would be dropped as he unveiled his “living with Covid” plan.

Vaccines will remain the first line of defence against Covid-19 as the Prime Minister set out the Government’s plans to live with and manage the virus.

The Plan, published sets out how vaccines and other pharmaceutical interventions will continue to form our first line of defence. Today the Government has accepted the JCVI recommendation to offer an additional booster to all adults aged over 75, all residents in care homes for older adults, and all over 12s who are immunosuppressed.

An autumn annual booster programme is under consideration, subject to further advice. Further detail on deployment on the spring booster programme will be set out in due course. The Government will continue to be guided by the JCVI on future vaccine programmes.

The plan covers four main pillars:

  • Removing domestic restrictions while encouraging safer behaviours through public health advice, in common with longstanding ways of managing other infectious illnesses
  • Protecting the vulnerable through pharmaceutical interventions and testing, in line with other viruses
  • Maintaining resilience against future variants, including through ongoing surveillance, contingency planning and the ability to reintroduce key capabilities such as mass vaccination and testing in an emergency
  • Securing innovations and opportunities from the COVID-19 response, including investment in life sciences

The public are encouraged to continue to follow public health advice, as with all infectious diseases such as the flu, to minimise the chance of catching Covid and help protect family and friends. This includes by letting fresh air in when meeting indoors, wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, and washing your hands.

The Prime Minister has today confirmed domestic legal restrictions will end on 24 February as we begin to treat Covid as other infectious diseases such as flu. This means:

  • The remaining domestic restrictions in England will be removed. The legal requirement to self-isolate ends. Until 1 April, we still advise people who test positive to stay at home. Adults and children who test positive are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
  • From April, the Government will update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and considerate of others, similar to advice on other infectious diseases. This will align with testing changes.
  • Self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
  • Routine contact tracing ends, including venue check-ins on the NHS COVID-19 app.
  • Fully vaccinated adults and those aged under 18 who are close contacts are no longer advised to test daily for seven days and the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate will be removed.

As set out in the Autumn and Winter Plan, universal free provision of tests will end as the response to the virus changes. From the start of April, the government will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public. Limited symptomatic testing will be available for a small number of at-risk groups and we will set out further details on which groups will be eligible shortly. Free symptomatic testing will also remain available to social care staff. We are working with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to can buy a test.

Further changes being made include: On 24 February, removing additional local authority powers to tackle local COVID-19 outbreaks (No.3 regulations). Local Authorities will manage local outbreaks in high-risk settings as they do with other infectious diseases. On 24 March, the Government will also remove the COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations.

From 1 April, the Government will:

  • Remove the current guidance on voluntary COVID-status certification in domestic settings and no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
  • No longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England.
  • Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:“Health leaders have been clear about the risks of watering down our ability to monitor the spread and evolution of coronavirus and will be disappointed their concerns have not been listened to.

“Of particular concern is the Government’s decision to exclude NHS staff from access to free testing from April. 94% of health leaders we surveyed recently said access to free tests for NHS staff and other key workers should not end.

“Patients, staff and visitors deserve to feel confident that they can access and work in services without risking their own health or causing worry to those around them. This is particularly true for people from clinically vulnerable groups who may already feel sidelined.

“We urge the Government to reconsider its plan with dedicated funding for continued access to Covid tests for all NHS workers in patient-facing roles.

“Also, with mandatory self-isolation due to end, we call on employers to support their employees to make the right decisions if they catch Covid and for the Government to maintain its communications about the recognised public health measures that can keep ourselves and those around us safe.”

 

 

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