Our thoughts on the upcoming changes to covid rules

Posted on February 22nd 2022

The Prime Minister has announced significant changes to COVID-19 regulations that will bring an end to all rules and restrictions in England.

The rule changes include ending the legal requirement to stay at home if you test positive from Thursday (24th February). People will be advised to stay at home for at least five days – but from 1st April it is down to “personal responsibility”.

Free testing for all will end in April, but those considered most vulnerable to covid will still be able to access them for free.

Dr Iain Armstrong, Chair of the PHA UK, said: “It is my belief that ending the legal requirement to isolate upon a positive test has come too soon. We are still in winter, with winter pressures on the NHS, and people need more time to adjust to this change – which will understandably be worrying for many.

“The very people who have protected the NHS through shielding are the ones who have most to lose from this decision, and that simply isn’t fair. I agree that we do need to ‘learn to live with’ COVID-19. However, this should happen in a planned way that gives vulnerable people time to psychologically adjust to such changes.

“To end the legal requirement to isolate from Thursday feels like a knee-jerk response, and as Chair of the PHA UK, it is my opinion that this decision is wrong at this time. A review or target towards Easter would seem to be more supported by evidence.”

Although free access to lateral flow tests will remain for those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, free testing will end for the general public from April 1st. It is thought tests will be priced at around £20 per pack.

Dr Armstrong added: “I am very disappointed by this course of action, and I know that many of our members will be too. Making tests chargeable to most people means those who feel concerned about infection will have to ask friends and family, or others they plan to meet, to pay in order to see them without worry. This feels like yet another knock for those who have already sacrificed so much through the pandemic.”

If you feel worried about the upcoming changes, our advice at the PHA UK is to continue practicing the habits that have helped you feel safe so far. This includes wearing a face covering if you wish, washing your hands regularly, and ensuring your COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date. You may wish to continue social distancing; this is down to personal choice.

  • Other UK nations have different rules: Northern Ireland has removed all restrictions and Wales is at alert level zero. Scotland will end all of its legal COVID-19 restrictions on 21st March.

For more information on the upcoming changes to covid regulations, visit the BBC News website