NHS: Government setting 'tough targets' to deal with backlog
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As part of the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, free lateral flow tests (LFT) and (PCR) tests are available to the public to see if they have the virus. Self-isolation rules in England also see those who test positive for the virus forced to isolate for at least six days.
Mr Johnson is expected to announce on Monday remaining Covid restrictions in England will be phased out by the end of February.
The Prime Minister told MPs he will make a statement on February 21 which will lay out “our strategy for living with Covid”.
He said: “Provided that the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test, a full month early.”
If the Prime MInister’s comments are true, it will no longer be a legal duty to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid from February 24 at the latest.
It is also thought travel restrictions are likely to be revoked around a month later and potentially the end of free testing for the general public.
However, a poll from the NHS Confederation found a majority of health workers do not want to see free Covid tests and self-isolation requirements scrapped.
In a survey of 307 NHS leaders, 79 percent “strongly disagree” or “disagree” with plans to stop free Covid tests for the public.
More than three quarters surveyed disagreed any axing of the requirement to self-isolate following a positive Covid test.
The survey also found 82 percent are against removing mask requirements in the NHS and care homes, 94 percent are against ending testing for health staff and other key workers, and 83 percent do not want the weekly Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey to be dropped or scaled back.
Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, insisted any change to Covid rules miss not be driven by politics.
He said: “Hospital admissions and deaths linked to coronavirus continue to fall nationally and this is allowing the NHS to bring back many routine services that it was asked to de- prioritise during the peaks of the pandemic, including some non-urgent elective procedures.
“With the success of the vaccine and new Covid treatments, this offers real hope as we learn to live with the virus.
“But the Government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely. A lot is at stake for the NHS’s recovery ambitions if the government is too gung-ho in its plans for exiting the pandemic, which is why health leaders are calling for a cautious and evidence-led approach.
“This must not be driven by political expediency.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid did not rule out an end to free Covid tests but stressed no “final decisions” have been made.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post while on a visit in Doncaster, Mr Javid said: “We are working on a plan on learning to live with COVID. And we will say more about that next week when Parliament is back.
“We haven’t yet made any final decisions around testing whether that’s PCR testing or lateral flow tests.
“But I said in Parliament back in September when we published the government’s autumn and winter plan on COVID, at some point, testing will change and it will adapt to the challenges that we face.
“I think as a country given that we’re in a much better position now than we have been for a while, we’ll keep it under review and make decisions according to the challenges.”
The winter plan holds “individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost,” under the proviso that “universal free provision” of LFTs will come to an end at some stage.
It comes as daily Covid cases dropped by 22 percent to 51,899 on Thursday, falling from 66,638 a week prior.
Hospital admissions related to Covid dropped 13.1 percent in a week, with 1,137 on Sunday and 1,308 a week prior.
Deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test fell 11.2 percent to 183 on Thursday, with 206 a week prior.
According to Government data, 52,542,206 Britons over 12 years old, or 91.3 percent of the population, have had their first Covid vaccine dose.
Data also holds 48,818,475, or 84.9 percent, have had their second dose and 37,911,067, or 65.9 percent, have had a booster jab.
Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has seen 18,499,058 cases and 160,221 deaths.
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