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Cambridge politicians and health chiefs issue warning over government ‘rush’ to lift Covid-19 protections

Concerns have been expressed that the progress made in combatting Covid-19 will be undermined by the government’s decision to lift restrictions.

The legal requirement for people who test positive to isolate ended on Thursday, February 24, although they are still be advised to stay at home for at least five days.

And in April, free universal testing will be scrapped. Remaining symptomatic testing will be focused on the most vulnerable, with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) set to determine the details.

MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner. Picture: Richard Marsham
MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner. Picture: Richard Marsham

Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner said: “Cambridge has had one of the highest levels of Covid in the country in recent weeks, so we know all too well that this isn’t yet over, especially in our schools. Thankfully the latest variant has been less serious and we now need to move to ways of living with it, and living well.

“To give reassurance, it is important that free testing remains available for all who want it. The government’s rush to lift all the protections is far more about the Prime Minister needing to distract attention from his own problems - far better to move at a sensible pace to make sure everyone stays safe.”

Routine contact tracing also ended on Thursday, as did the £500 self-isolation payments and the legal obligation for individuals to tell their employers about their requirement to isolate.

Changes to statutory sick pay and employment support allowance designed to help people through the coronavirus pandemic will end on March 24.

A positive lateral flow test result
A positive lateral flow test result

Cllr Richard Howitt (Lab, Petersfield), chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s adults and health committee, said: “I remain concerned that the impact of reduced testing could jeopardise the progress made and make it more difficult to identify new variants. The scientific evidence to support these decision has not been published in advance.

“I hope local people will choose to continue to isolate where they have symptoms, use face masks and take-up all opportunities for vaccination. The county council is deeply grateful to all our staff, the volunteers and local residents who have helped us get to this stage and we ask for continued vigilance by all of us to continue.”

Latest figures show Cambridgeshire recorded more than 3,800 cases in the week to February 20 and the infection rate in the county, although declining, remains above the national average.

The council advised residents to:

  • Avoid going to the workplace (work from home if possible) or meeting other people, if you have symptoms
  • Continue testing over the next month
  • Make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated
  • Let people know they can use face coverings or screens
  • Continue regular hand washing and use of hand sanitiser
  • Continue regular cleaning of surfaces
  • Getting two doses of a Covid vaccine and the booster.

Meanwhile, people aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed and those living in care homes will be offered another Covid-19 booster vaccine this spring. It has also been suggested that annual Covid vaccines may be offered with flu jabs each autumn.

Jyoti Atri, director of public health at Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said: “It has been a long and painful two years, so it is only right that after all the sacrifices made people make the most of the spring and summer months.

“At the moment, due to the vaccine, Covid is not causing the level of harm that we have seen with previous waves, although it is still a risk to vulnerable people and we need to be prepared if this situation changes due to immunity waning or a new and dangerous variant.”

Further information on the Government announcement can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-living-with-covid-19

Anyone yet to get both doses of a Covid vaccine, or their booster, can find out where they can jabbed at: https://www.thevaccinators.co.uk/.

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