Lifting Covid Plan B Restrictions The Right Move
All Covid Plan B measures are Withdrawn. People will no longer be compelled to work from home or wear a face mask in public places, and venues and events will no longer be needed to use Covid cards. Ministers hope to abolish obligatory isolation for anyone who test positive for coronavuris before the end of the month.
These modifications are warranted, given the UK’s high levels of immunity, and many people will be relieved to see their lives return to some kind of pre-Covid normalcy. Others, on the other hand, will experience some anxiousness. Rather than a “big boom,” the government should plan for a period of transition that allows individuals to adjust, including continuing to support testing and permitting local mask guidance.
The government has the right to gradually remove limitations
Covid is well-protected in the United Kingdom. Over 90% of over-12s have received at least one jab, and over two-thirds have received their booster. Most people have most likely also been infected with the virus (the official figure of 13m is a significant undercount). While hospitals were under tremendous strain, the Omicron outbreak did not result in the significant number of serious illnesses and deaths from Covid as some had predicted.
There are still dangers to be faced. Case rates have now stabilised at roughly 90,000 cases per day (still significantly higher than pre-Omicron), and the impact of eliminating Plan B measures is unknown. While the United Kingdom as a whole is well protected, some people, such as the unvaccinated and immunocompromised, are not. Long Covid may still be available from Omicron, according to experts. And it’s still feasible that more worrying varieties will arise elsewhere – and that a more virulent variety may necessitate the reinstatement of some restrictions. The government must maintain vigilant.
However, there is a compelling case for phasing out draconian legal requirements, allowing people to return to work, and putting the UK on a clear route to treating Covid like other viruses.
The government should allow people to adjust at their own pace
Despite the lifting of legal limits, a ‘big bang’ approach would be ineffective. Although it may be politically appealing, there are still risks that must be mitigated through guidance and other measures, and individuals will need time to adjust. The government should assist people in making adjustments and provide support to those who are uneasy.
One apparent method to achieve this is to have free lateral flow tests available (LFTs). While the need for pricey PCRs will diminish as enforced isolation is phased out, LFTs are remarkably inexpensive for their utility in both detecting infections and, more broadly, allowing people to go about their daily lives and see elderly relatives. They have thus far cost the taxpayer roughly £6 billion, a pittance in comparison to previous Covid expenditures.
Their widespread availability has been a UK success storey; the US has (eventually) followed suit, and Germany was forced to reintroduce them after a spike in instances. People will have to pay for them at some time, possibly when the number of instances and hospitalizations falls below a particular threshold. However, removing them all at once – a notion that was presented and then rejected – would be shortsighted.
The government should also make it clear that, while masks are no longer necessary by law, they can nevertheless play a vital role in lowering dangers and making people feel comfortable. Headteachers (and students) in high-case areas have reason to be concerned about the prime minister’s order to remove masks from schools, not least because a large number of Covid cases might soon lead to the much larger harm of a return to home schooling.
Allowing decisions about how quickly to adjust to be decided locally (in this case by local public health directors) where situations are best known would be a good idea. Sadiq Khan’s decision to keep Londoners wearing masks on public transportation while eliminating the risk of fines For those who don’t, it appears to be a reasonable transitional balance.
The government’s most difficult decision will be on mandatory isolation
The government’s most important decision – and the true test of any ‘return to normal’ – is mandated isolation (a debate also going on in other countries). It has stated that this will be withdrawn in a month, but it has not stated what guidelines (if any) will replace it. The UK should obviously want to do rid of the policy since it is costly and crass in terms of its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, and that expense is difficult to justify when the threat that someone using Covid poses to others is greatly diminished. However, the hazard is not insignificant – and people may be concerned that persons with symptoms are moving among them unnoticed.
It is important to note that those who have the flu are not legally obligated to separate themselves. However, the pandemic has raised issues about whether it was ever reasonable for many individuals to feel compelled to go to work even while they were sick. The government should provide clear expert advise on how those who test positive should behave once the rule on mandatory isolation changes. For all the talk of resuming pre-pandemic normalcy, one beneficial legacy of the Covid pandemic should be a real conversation about how to reform regulations and improve culture in the workplace and elsewhere to assist people keep themselves and others healthy.