Yesterday, 21 st February 2022, the UK Prime Minister set out his plans to live with COVID-19 going forward. The details can be found below, along with our recommended advice in relation to your business’s continued success living with covid and avoiding a whole workforce outage.
The Details of Living with Covid
As of yesterday, 21 February, the guidance was removed for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice-weekly asymptomatic testing.
On 24 February, (Thursday) all domestic legal restrictions shall end, including:
- The legal requirement to self-isolate will end. Until 1 April, the government still advise people who test positive to stay at home. This includes both adults and children who test positive, and to avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue remain home until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days. From April, the Government will update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and considerate of others, similar to advice on other infectious diseases. This will align with testing changes.
- Self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
- Routine contact tracing will end, including venue check-ins on the NHS COVID-19 app.
- Fully vaccinated adults and those aged under 18 who are close contacts are no longer advised to test daily for seven days and the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate will be removed.
- Local Authorities will manage local outbreaks in high-risk settings as they do with other infectious diseases will be removed.
From 1st April 2022, the government will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public. Limited symptomatic testing will be available for a small number of at-risk groups and the government will set out further details on which groups will be eligible soon. Free symptomatic
testing will also remain available to social care staff. The government will also work with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to, can buy a test.
From 1 April, the Government will also:
- Remove the current guidance on voluntary COVID-status certification in domestic settings and no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
- Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.
On 24 March, (2 years from the first day of lockdown) the Government will also remove the COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations.
Park City’s Advice
Whilst the legal requirement to self-isolate will end on 24th February. The requirement to assess the foreseeable risk of COVID still applies. The current recommendations include identifying:
- What work activities or situations may cause the transmission of COVID-19
- The persons at risk e.g., workers, customers, visitors, contractors, delivery drivers or the general public
- How likely that the someone identified above would be exposed
- Any control measures put or to be put in place.
Extra care should be made for persons particularly vulnerable (people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, immunosuppressed and pregnant workers)
The Health and Safety Executive are still recommending the following control measures:
- Adequate ventilation – The law says employers must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. This has not changed during the pandemic. Inc use of CO2 Monitors to identify poor ventilation
- Sufficient cleaning – Coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces. It can be passed on to others who touch the same surfaces.
- Good hand hygiene – Consider using signs and posters to help your workers practice good handwashing techniques and to remind them to catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue or the crook of their arm and avoid touching their faces
It is important to stress that none of the above control measures can manage the transmission of COVID-19 on their own and it is expected that a collection of control measures are expected.
Whilst the legal requirement will be removed to self-isolate you will need to make an educated business decision in regard to protecting the remainder of the workforce. For example, allowing someone to enter the workplace where you know they have COVID-19 which is a highly transmissible virus would
work against the control measures put in place and would increase the likelihood of infecting other staff. The government is still recommending people stay at home and avoid contact with other people with an LFT test after 5 days.
Consideration should be made if you intend to continue a testing scheme past 1st April 2022 and how this would be supported with the removal of free government testing.
Remember that it is important to engage with your workforce to ensure continual buy-in to the measures that you put in place. Control measures are only effective if they are actively used, and you should consider how you will check their effectiveness.
Should you need further clarification or assistance call your lead HR or H&S consultant or our office.
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