While Mr Johnson announced that self-isolation would be axed from Thursday and free testing provisions largely ending in April, the plan sets out in clear detail some of the ways that the UK’s Covid-19 infrastructure will be dismantled.
Daily Covid dashboard updates could be axed as tests are phased out
The plan discloses that the Government’s popular Covid dashboard will be kept under review to ensure its data remains “useful and relevant” as testing is scaled back.
Established at the start of the pandemic, the dashboard has been used to provide daily updates on Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths in all parts of the UK, offering national and local data.
However, data on testing and deaths – which is currently contingent upon people receiving a positive Covid test in the 28 days before their death – could be severely impacted by the elimination of free tests.
The plan confirms: “The UK Health Security Agency will keep the content and frequency of reporting on Covid-19 under close review – including the Gov.uk Dashboard – to ensure that statistics are being produced with the appropriate level of quality and transparency, and remain useful and relevant as per the Code of Practice for Statistics.”
You no longer have to tell your boss if you’re infected
Tory MPs cheered Mr Johnson as he said that all remaining parts of the Coronavirus Act will be repealed, vowing to “move from Government restrictions to personal responsibility, so we protect ourselves while maintaining our liberty”.
The plan spells out in much greater detail some of the impacts of ceasing legal restrictions.
Among them, it specifies: “From 24 February, workers will not be legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.”
Employers will no longer have to consider Covid risks to workers
Likewise, from 1 April, the requirement for every employer to “explicitly consider” Covid-19 in their risk assessments will be ditched.
While the Government says the intention is to “empower businesses to take responsibility for implementing mitigations that are appropriate for their circumstances,” the change means that employers will have no legal duty to consider the risk of transmission of Covid-19 by or to their employees, or how to minimise it.
No one is likely to tell you if you’ve been exposed to Covid
The plan also makes clear that “routine contact tracing” will come to an end, meaning that people exposed to Covid will no longer be contacted and advised to get tested.
Instead, those testing positive for Covid-19 after paying for tests will simply be “encouraged to inform their close contacts” themselves “so that they can follow that guidance”.
While the plan states local health teams are still able to contact trace “where they assess this to be necessary,” it is unclear when this would actually occur.
Support for people on low incomes will be gutted
While Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance used Monday’s Downing Street press conference to urge people to continue to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid, critics noted that the plan guts the support that enables many to do so.
From 24 February, people on low incomes will no longer be able to claim a £500 support payment for lost income if they cannot go to work, meaning many will have little choice but to do so to make ends meet.
Further Covid-19 provisions relating to statutory sick pay, as well as for employment and support allowance, will end on 24 March, though it’s claimed people with Covid “may still be eligible, subject to the normal conditions of entitlement.”
Domestic Covid passports could be ditched from the NHS App
While Boris Johnson indicated in the Commons that the NHS Covid Pass would no longer be “recommended” for entry to venues, the Covid plan goes further in suggesting they could later be removed from NHS App entirely, remaining only for a “limited period”.
It says: “The NHS Covid Pass will remain available within the NHS App for a limited period, to support the use of certification in other parts of the UK.
“The NHS App will continue to allow individuals access to their vaccination status for international travel, as well as their recovery status for travel to those overseas destinations that recognise it.”