Free Covid-19 tests will no longer be available except for the most at-risk groups from 1st April as the government sets out the next steps of its ‘Living with COVID’ plan.
Free Covid-19 tests will remain available for those at risk of serious illness, NHS and care staff beyond 1st April, but PCR tests for those with Covid-19 symptoms, and lateral flow tests for asymptomatic cases will cease to be available for the general public. Instead, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid asks that people manage the virus like other respiratory infections.
From 1 April, updated guidance will advise people with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19, and a high temperature or who feel unwell, to try stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until they feel well enough to resume normal activities and they no longer have a high temperature. Anyone with a positive COVID-19 test result will be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious.
Advice will be provided for individuals who need to leave their home when they have symptoms or have tested positive, including avoiding close contact with people with a weakened immune system, wearing a face-covering and avoiding crowded places.
New guidance for employers to follow when managing risk and Covid-19 infections in the workplace will be published on 1st April. Additional sick pay entitlement for those unable to work due to Covid-19 already came to an end on 17th March as previously announced in the Living With COVID plan.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said:
“Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus. We have made enormous progress but will keep the ability to respond to future threats including potential variants.
“Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.”
A second booster jab for over 75s and the most clinically vulnerable aged 12 and over are now available to keep immunity levels ‘topped up’ for those most at risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, added:
“The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain. Covid still poses a real risk to many of us, particularly with case rates and hospitalisations on the rise. That is why it is sensible to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, keep indoor spaces ventilated and stay away from others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including Covid.
“Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid infection. If you have not yet come forward for your primary or booster I would urge you to do so straight away – the NHS vaccine programme is there to help you and the sooner you are vaccinated the sooner you and your family and friends will be protected.”