The Prime Minister has given a statement to the House and we expect a press conference around 7pm tonight.
The Government’s response has four principles:
- Living with COVID-19: removing domestic restrictions while encouraging safer behaviours through public health advice, in common with longstanding ways of managing most other respiratory illnesses;
- Protecting people most vulnerable to COVID-19: vaccination guided by Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice, supporting the NHS and social care and deploying targeted testing.
- Maintaining resilience: ongoing surveillance, contingency planning and the ability to reintroduce key capabilities such as mass vaccination and testing in an emergency; and
- Securing innovations and opportunities from the COVID-19 response, including investment in life sciences.
- From 21 February, the Government is removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing.
- From 1 April, the Government will no longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England.
- From 1 April, there will be some limited ongoing free testing:
- Limited symptomatic testing available for a small number of at-risk groups – the Government will set out further details on which groups will be eligible.
- Free symptomatic testing will remain available to social care staff
- The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive COVID-19 test will end on 24 February.
- Positive cases will be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and continue following this advice until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
- Household close contacts are advised to work from home if possible, avoid contact with high risk individuals and limit close contact with other people. Non-household contacts are advised to follow more general advice on ventilation, wearing masks and hygiene.
- From 24 March, the COVID-19 provisions within Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will end. People with COVID-19 may still be eligible, subject to the normal conditions of entitlement.
Advice for the former CEV group and people whose immune system means they are at higher risk
- The shielding programme ended on 15 September 2021 and the government wrote to everyone on the Shielded Patient List at this time informing them of this. There is no longer a centrally defined Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group or Shielded Patient List.
- There is a smaller group of people for whom vaccines may be less effective because of their immune system. There is separate guidance for this group containing additional public health advice and information on vaccinations and treatments. This guidance will be updated in due course.
What this means for adult social care
- While the vast majority of care recipients in adult social care are vaccinated, individuals are still at a greater risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 relative to the general population, and the transmission risk remains high in vulnerable settings due to the kind of close contact care individuals receive. Therefore, the current protections will remain in place for those in adult social care settings.
- As we ease restrictions in society and restrictions on freedoms in care settings, it therefore remains important to ensure that robust protections are in place in vulnerable settings to continue keeping staff and care recipients safe as we transition to living with COVID. For advice on caring for people in adult social care settings, please see the Coronavirus (COVID-19): adult social care guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- The Government will carefully review measures in adult social care settings further over the coming weeks where staff care for the most vulnerable in society. The updated position will be set out in out in guidance by 1 April.