NHS, adult social care and prison staff will continue to be eligible for free Covid-19 tests when free testing for the general public ends on 1 April.
Under the government’s Living with Covid plan, people with symptoms of respiratory infection and a high temperature will be asked to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well again.
However, free asymptomatic testing will still be offered to people living and working in high risk settings including care homes, hospices, homecare organisations, homelessness settings, high risk domestic abuse refuges, prisons, immigration centres, and to NHS workers.
People who are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 will also be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home.
Guidance that employers can follow to reduce Covid-19 transmission in workplaces will be published on 1 April.
Living with Covid
Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “As we learn to live with Covid, we are focusing our testing provision on those at higher risk of serious outcomes from the virus, while encouraging people to keep following simple steps to help keep themselves and others safe.
“The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain. Covid still poses a real risk to many of us, particularly with case rates and hospitalisations on the rise. That is why it is sensible to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, keep indoor spaces ventilated and stay away from others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including Covid.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid said that vaccines remained the best defence against Covid-19, and urged those eligible for spring boosters to come forward.
Updated guidance for adult social care settings will also been issued. It will state that:
- Free personal protective equipment and priority vaccinations and boosters for residents and staff will continue to be provided
- Restrictions on staff movements between settings will be removed
- Designated settings for patients who test positive for Covid-19 before they move into care homes will be removed
- Streamlined guidance on infection and prevention control measures will be published, including future measures for Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses
- Updated guidance for adult social care providers and staff to set out the current testing regime across adult social care will be introduced.
The government has also said free car parking at hospitals for NHS staff introduced during the pandemic will come to an end on 31 March. However, it said it would look at providing free hospital parking to more NHS patients and visitors, with more than 94% of trusts implementing free parking for night shift workers and “those who need it most”.