From today, just over two years since the first lockdown was announced, England is moving into the Government’s Living with Covid plan with the end of most restrictions and widespread free lateral flow tests.
Today, the temporary reduction in VAT on hospitality will also end with rates returning to the standard 20%.
Living with Covid
Under the Living with Covid plan, Lateral Flow test will only be free to a limited number of people – over 75 year old and over 12 year old with a narrow definition of a weakened immune system will qualify.
The NHS Covid Pass will no longer be recognised as a vaccine passport within the UK and whilst those who test positive will be advised to stay at home and self isolate for at least five days, it is no longer a legal requirement.
Masks are no longer required in public spaces although are still mandatory in healthcare such as hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes.
In Northern Ireland, there is still a recommendation to wear face masks in public spaces.
In Wales, face masks are recommended but no longer compulsory apart from in health and social care. Lateral Flow tests will continue to be free until June if you have symptoms.
Scotland still require face masks on public transport and free testing remains until the end of April.
VAT on hospitality
There is also a change to VAT on hospitality today, having been cut to 12.5% as a temporary measure during the pandemic, it is returning to 20% as of today which, on top of already rising food prices, could lead to even higher costs to consumers dining out.
Living with Covid in the workplace
With no financial support available from the government, businesses will have to decide how to handle staff who are showing symptoms. It’s currently estimated that around one if 15 or 16 people are infected so it’s not something that can be ignored.
The last thing you want is your entire workforce going down with Covid because one infected employee came in – many can’t afford unpaid time off work to self isolate. It may prove well worthwhile to keep employees self distancing as much as possible and where this isn’t possible keeping smaller groups to prevent widespread infections.