Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said that people with COVID-19 should still isolate, despite the Government’s scrapping of mandatory self-isolation rules.
In the Commons yesterday (February 21), Boris Johnson announced the end of almost all pandemic restrictions and ended free public access to tests as part of his new “living with COVID” plan.
In a press conference yesterday evening, however, Whitty stressed that the virus should be treated similarly to other illnesses such as norovirus, and said that the wearing of face masks in crowded public places “remains sensible and pragmatic advice”.
“As we look at the next weeks, we still have high rates of Omicron and I would urge people in terms of public health advice, and this is very much the Government’s position, that people should still if they have COVID try to prevent other people getting it and that means self-isolating,” Whitty said.
“So, that is the public health advice. It would have been the public health advice, and will be the public health advice, for multiple other diseases.” He described this as “standard public health advice for a significant and highly transmissible infection”.
Also as part of Johnson’s plan, routine contact tracing will end, as will the need for fully vaccinated close contacts of positive cases and those aged under 18 to test daily for seven days. The recommended twice-a-week testing in schools and education is also ending.
The £500 isolation payment for people on low incomes will no longer be available from February 24, and free rapid tests will end on April 1 for all but the oldest and most vulnerable.
Reacting to the news, live music industry figures spoke to NME about their mixed response to the news.
MVT CEO Mark Davyd described the oncoming easing of restrictions as “very much a mixed bag of changes with positive and negative aspects for the music industry”.
“On the one hand, changes to travel rules on testing and the forthcoming changes to isolation are positive moves for international travelling and will provide additional assurances to US, European and other artists that tours can go ahead as planned with a degree of certainty,” Davyd told NME.
“On the negative side, it remains the case that a significant number of vulnerable people, particularly the immunosuppressed, face the choice of taking known risks to take part in live music, both artists and audiences.”
The ending of free rapid tests for the public has caused particular concern. The Music Venue Trust is urging people to test before shows through its #TakeATest campaign and a longstanding bid to keep lateral flow tests free and available for gig-goers.