End of legal coronavirus restrictions

Angela Renwick
Angela Renwick
Senior Solicitor
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On 21 February 2022, the Westminster Government published their “Living with COVID-19” plan detailing their proposal to remove all coronavirus restrictions from law in England in light of widespread vaccine protection in the population and the hope that the stability of the pandemic will continue to increase.

Whilst the plan has still to be scrutinised in Parliament, it is expected to be implemented. The key changes proposed by the plan are set out below and can be accessed here.

Self-isolation

From 24 February 2022, the following changes will be made to remaining self-isolation requirements:

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test will be removed but those with coronavirus will still be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others
  • Close contacts of those with coronavirus will no longer be required to test daily for 7 days (if vaccinated) or self-isolate (if not fully vaccinated) but guidance will be issued with advice for close contacts
  • Self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and medicine delivery services will cease however, those who were told to self-isolate prior to 21 February will have 42 days to access these measures
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations will be revoked, meaning that many of the Government’s powers to close premises and regulate events for coronavirus-related reasons will be relinquished
  • Workers will no longer be legally required to tell their employers if they have coronavirus

From 24 March 2022, the rules relating to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for coronavirus-related absences will end, meaning that pre-pandemic SSP rules will resume. SSP will therefore only be payable after three waiting days and only where the individual satisfies the normal eligibility criteria. The coronavirus-specific Employment and Support Allowance rules will also end.

From 1 April 2022, the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider coronavirus in their risk assessments will be removed but some business may still need to consider it where the risk is prevalent in their business, in line with pre-existing health and safety laws.

Testing

From 21 February 2022, the guidance which encouraged staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice-weekly asymptomatic testing is removed.

From 1 April 2022, the Government will no longer provide free testing for the general public in England. However, limited testing will be available for social care staff and a small number of at-risk groups.

Contact tracing

From 24 February 2022, routine contact tracing will end however those who test positive will be encouraged to inform close contacts so that they can follow the relevant guidance.

From 1 April 2022, the Government will remove the current guidance on domestic voluntary coronavirus-status certification and will no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass app.

From 1 April 2022, guidance to the public and to businesses will reflect public health advice however, there will continue to be specific guidance for those who are at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

The plan also confirms that by 1 April 2022 the legislation requiring those in health and social care settings to be fully vaccinated will be revoked.

Separately, we also take the opportunity to advise the SSP Rebate Scheme will end on 17 March 2022, with a deadline of 24 March 2022 in place to submit any new claims.

Whilst the SSP Regulations apply in England, Wales and Scotland, the devolved administrations in the other parts of the UK will continue to set their own rules in relation to the pandemic.

The Scottish Government confirmed yesterday that its remaining legal restrictions will also be removed, with the laws requiring vaccine passports to be produced upon entry to certain events being removed from 28 February 2022 and those requiring face coverings in certain settings being removed on 21 March 2022. However, self-isolation in Scotland was already underpinned by guidance rather than law and so the situation in that regard is largely unaffected. The Scottish Government is planning to review its approach to testing around the end of March but is still encouraging those with symptoms to have a PCR test meantime. Support payments for those self-isolating will also remain available for now.

Whilst the above proposals may be a welcome relief to businesses who have been struggling with staffing due to self-isolation periods in recent months, the Government has been clear that with this plan, they want to empower businesses to make their own decisions in terms of how they are going to manage the impact of coronavirus in their workplace. As such, businesses will need to decide what approach they wish to take. We will be providing our retained clients with an FAQ document in early course to assist them in making these important decisions.

If you have any questions about the changes to coronavirus restrictions in the meantime, or following receipt of the FAQ document, please do not hesitate to call us on 0141 331 5150.

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