Dr Amir discusses the changes in Covid-19 testing rules
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Boris Johnson hopes England can “ride out” the Omicron wave without enforcing further restrictions. The Government is drafting its next set of Covid rules as ministers say England needs to “live with Covid.” According to reports, the PM will set out his new Covid strategy “in the coming weeks.”
The Prime Minister has resisted calls to impose new Covid rules to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
His current “Plan B” restrictions include the wearing of masks on public transports, working from home where possible and isolating for seven days after testing positive for Covid.
This plan is scheduled to be reviewed on January 26. Here’s all we know about the new set of rules currently under consideration.
Whitehall sources have revealed that the Government could phase out free Covid testing.
A new scaled-back testing programme could be introduced “within weeks”, with lateral flow tests only being supplied freely to those in high-risk settings, such as in schools, hospitals and care homes.
A senior Whitehall source told the Sunday Times: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody.
“It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing but we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary.”
They added in the future: “Individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost [of tests]”.
Another measure reported to be under consideration is the reduction of the self-isolation period.
Currently, those who test positive for the virus are required to isolate for seven days.
However, new plans could see this isolation period being cut to just five days.
It’s hoped this will relieve the staffing crisis currently threatening the NHS and schools, as Covid-related staff absences have reached record highs this winter.
The next update is expected to provide fresh guidance on where face coverings will be necessary wearing and it will also give fresh guidance on the current work from home order.
When will these new rules be introduced?
The Government insists no rule changes will be made while Covid case rates continue to soar.
A staggering 141,472 positive Covid tests were reported on Sunday as the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across the UK.
The new measures will likely be introduced once the Omicron wave has peaked and cases begin to fall.
Downing Street insists their primary focus is tackling the current pressures on the NHS, schools and other public services as the staffing crisis continues.
When pressed on whether free lateral flow tests for all would be scrapped, the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Sky: “That is absolutely not where we are at”.
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