It has felt like a long and hard slog for most of us since March 2022 when the country was put into the first of many lockdowns. It has taken a lot of work and effort and putting up with various regulations, restrictions, and often confusing rules. However, the good news and silver lining is that since the end of 2021, we have been moving towards the idea of living with Covid-19 present in our lives.
With rule changes that have been introduced and set in motion, in England for the moment, we now have as much freedom to come and go for our daily lives, as we did before Covid-19 first emerged. What are the rule changes and what do they mean?
The Rule Changes Explained
Essentially, the most important rule change that we have all been waiting for (even if there is a certain degree of trepidation and apprehension for some) is that in England, following February 24th, 2022, people who have Covid-19 do not legally have to self-isolate. All the current regulations and restrictions related to Covid have therefore ended in line with the Government’s so-called “Living With Covid” plan.
What Does This Mean?
This change in law means that whereas before people in England had to self-isolate for a certain time, now they no longer have to.
Although there are no laws in place anymore, the public health advice from experts is clear that people who test positive or who have main symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and do their best to avoid contacting others, if possible, for a minimum of five days.
These changes mean a few things are different moving forward:
- The self-isolation support payments on low incomes of £500 are no longer available
- Routine contact tracing has been discontinued
- Employees are no longer legally obligated to tell employers if they need to self-isolate or not
- People do not need to take daily tests or self-isolate if they have come into or been in close contact with an individual that has tested positive. This rule change is not based on vaccination status.
What are the Changes to Covid-19 Testing Rules?
Until April 2022, the rules and regulations on Covid-19 testing remain the same. After that time, in line with the fact that you no longer need to self-isolate, there is no legal requirement in the majority of salutations where you need to get tested for Covid-19, even if you think you have symptoms.
The free Lateral Flow Tests that have been offered through the Government and NHS will no longer be available to the majority of the population from April 1st onwards. The only exceptions will be anyone over-70-year-olds and over-12-year-olds who have weakened immune systems along with NHS staff and social care workers.
That means if you want or feel you need to get tested for Covid, anyone not in those categories, will need to buy a test from either pharmacists or other kinds of retailers. Remember, though, you don’t need to get tested by law from that time.
What About If You Test Positive?
If you do take a Covid-19 lateral flow test and you have a positive result for Covid, you should still report that result to Gov.UK, as the government will still monitor the situation. You also don’t need to get a follow-up PCR test and should only get one if:
- You have been told you are eligible for the brand-new treatments for Covid-19
- You have been asked to as part of the official research
So to summarise the changes to the rules, as was established in February this year, you no longer need to self-isolate whether you have a positive test result or believe you have Covid-19. You also are not obligated to have tests and free tests kits will no longer be available to most people following April 1st, 2022. The encouragement from public health officials and experts is to use common sense and your own discretion and take appropriate measures if you do believe you are infected with the virus. There are, however, no enforceable laws in place from that point regarding self-isolation and testing.