Moving on: UK to treat COVID-19 as flu
The United Kingdom will begin to treat Covid-19 as other endemic infectious diseases such as flu as it kicks off plans to live with the pandemic, using vaccines and pharmaceutical interventions as its first line of defence.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister in a statement on Monday said it will end domestic legal restrictions beginning from February 24 in his resolve to ensure restrictions do not stay in place longer than necessary.
However, until April 1, people who test positive are advised 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 said it 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.
Also, self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
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.
The plan aimed to limit the interference of curbing measures in livelihood is built on four pillars including the reduction of domestic restrictions and protection of the vulnerable.
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It also covers maintenance of 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.
The government says it remains ready to respond if a new variant emerges and places unsustainable pressure on the NHS, through surveillance systems and contingency measures such as increased testing capacity or vaccine programmes.
Further changes being made include the removal of guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake asymptomatic tests twice weekly.
On March 24, the government will also remove the COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations.
The move which implies the legal requirement to self-isolate will stop this week could be a catalyst for what expertise criticise as untimely relaxation of preventive measures in a world where eager to put the pandemic in the past.
Experts have been persistent in cautioning against moves that treat COVID-19 as a bygone pandemic, saying the virus continues to spread, resulting in hospitlisations and deaths.
The government stated that over 31 million boosters have been administered across England and almost 38 million UK wide helping break the link between infections and hospitalisations. In England, the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths continue to decline and are far below the levels of previous waves, with boosters offering strong protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.
“Thanks to our hugely successful vaccination programme, the immunity built up in the population and our new antiviral and therapeutics tools, the UK is in the strongest possible position to learn how to live with Covid and end government regulation,” the statement said.