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End of COVID rules: nurses left to wonder what it means for them

Self-isolation and free testing scrapped as part of ministers’ ‘living with COVID’ plan in England, despite safety warnings from NHS leaders, nurses’ unions and scientists
Prime minister Boris Johnson announces end of COVID restrictions

Self-isolation and free testing scrapped as part of ministers’ ‘living with COVID’ plan in England, despite safety warnings from NHS leaders, nurses’ unions and scientists

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced the end of coronavirus restrictions, including self-isolation rules for anyone testing positive, from Thursday.

It is unclear whether the changes in England – what the government calls its ‘living with COVID’ strategy – will apply to nurses.

Mr Johnson also told the House of Commons free coronavirus tests come to an end from April 1, except for the most clinically vulnerable people and oldest age groups. Currently, NHS staff are asked to take two lateral flow tests a week.

Impact on nursing staff

Self-isolation and free testing scrapped as part of ministers’ ‘living with COVID’ plan in England, despite safety warnings from NHS leaders, nurses’ unions and scientists

Picture: Parliament TV

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced the end of coronavirus restrictions, including self-isolation rules for anyone testing positive, from Thursday.

It is unclear whether the changes in England – what the government calls its ‘living with COVID’ strategy – will apply to nurses.

Mr Johnson also told the House of Commons free coronavirus tests come to an end from April 1, except for the most clinically vulnerable people and oldest age groups. Currently, NHS staff are asked to take two lateral flow tests a week.

Impact on nursing staff

The Department of Health and Social Care and UK Health Security Agency was unable to tell Nursing Standard how the scrapping of all COVID-19 restrictions would affect health and social care staff.

‘The government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely’

Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation

Last week unions warned against the ending of restrictions, calling for reassurance nurses would continue to receive free lateral flow test kits.

An NHS Confederation survey published on Friday showed the majority of more than 300 senior health service leaders questioned supported continuation of testing and restrictions. Some 94% of those polled said testing for health staff and other key workers must not be abandoned.

They urged a ministers to exercise caution, especially as the NHS tries to tackle the patient backlog. NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said the ‘government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely.’

‘Government is abdicating responsibility for its own population’

Healthcare experts have also opposed the ending of restrictions and testing, with one professor who contributes to SAGE (the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) telling Times Radio the move was irresponsible.

Robert West, a member of the Spi-B – the Scientific Pandemic Insights group on Behaviours – said he thinks the government has moved to ‘abdicate its own responsibility for looking after its population’.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Professor West said: ‘It looks as though what the government has said is it accepts the country is going to have to live with somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 COVID deaths a year and isn’t really going to do anything about it. Now that seems to me to be irresponsible.’

Professor West said he would be ‘very surprised’ if scrapping rules proves to be cost-saving, given the costs of hospital admissions, and the impact of factors including long-COVID on the economy.


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