As cases and hospitalisations continue to rise, a truth is falling over the community that the COVID-19 pandemic may not ever fully end, that the virus is not something that can be fully eradicated. As a result, the UK government has taken the decision that the population must live with COVID-19 as it does with other illnesses such as flu. To this end it is going ahead with its Living with Covid plan. This includes the lifting of restrictions such as the legal requirement to self-isolate, the removal of free universal testing, and new up to date guidance.
The removal of the legal requirement to self-isolate is one of the most controversial decisions the government has made in recent weeks on Covid.
New guidance on this states: “From 1 April, 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.”
With regard to children and young people, two groups badly hit by restrictions and long Covid, the government said: “Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can.”
READ MORE: Norovirus: Outbreaks of vomiting bug – symptoms to spot
As a result, should a child or young person come down with a cough or fever, they are being advised to avoid other people.
“They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature, and they are well enough to attend,” continued the government.
Another highly controversial decision by the government has been the removal of free testing from April 1st.
However, free testing: “Will continue to be available to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff once the universal testing offer ends.”
Furthermore, people who are at a high risk of developing serious risk of illness as a result of contracting COVID-19, NHS and adult social care staff and others in high risk settings will still be able to access tests free of charge.
Speaking of the rule changes Health Secretary 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.”
Vaccines have remained the government’s chosen way to protect the public from the virus and reduce the need for restrictions.
However, this does not mean that restrictions may not come back.
By removing restrictions, legal requirements to self-isolate, and free testing, the likelihood of a more dangerous variant, one with vaccine escape, developing rises dramatically.
Professor Sir Chris Whitty warned: “There’s a high chance that we will all be discussing and I will be discussing with my colleagues, a new variant at some point in the next two years that actually significantly changes our balance of risk.”
“We could well end up with a new variant that produces worse problems than we’ve got with Omicron and the Omicron problems are by no means trivial,” warned the Professor.
A variant of Omicron, BA.2 has spread quickly through the population in recent months, causing the large upswing in new infections.
Nevertheless, the government remains confident that its decisions, despite a lack of evidence, are the right ones for the country.
Whether it is the right one, only time will tell.