An update from Deputy Director of Public Health Rachael Leslie – 25 February

As I’m sure you’re aware, a number of changes came into effect yesterday in England as part of the government’s plan of Living with Covid. 

There is now no legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid. However, anyone who does test positive is still advised to stay at home. Staying at home when you are unwell will reduce the spread of illnesses in our community, including to people who could still be very unwell if they catch Covid. 

Routine contact tracing has also now ended. The legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate has been removed and replaced with advice on steps they can take reduce risk to other people. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Doncaster Council’s contact tracers, who have worked incredibly hard during this time and played a huge role in reducing transmissions of Covid across the borough and helped many people with the practicalities of isolating. The team will remain on our reserve list if we need to step up a response in the future. 

Self-isolation support payments for people who have tested positive have now ended and from 24th March, the COVID-19 provisions within Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will also end. 

The government also announced that from 1 April, free PCR and LFT testing will stop – though free symptomatic (PCR) testing will remain for social care staff and there will be some limited ongoing free testing available for a small number of higher risk groups. 

I understand that some residents will welcome these changes, whilst others may be feeling anxious about them, but rest assured we will continue to support Doncaster to cautiously adapt to the national changes. A reduced response nationally does not mean no response at all. 

National surveillance systems, including the ONS infection survey will continue. We will also need to maintain a level of local surveillance, response and support. 

We’ll be working with our school community to ensure that the updated guidance works in their environment, along with businesses to ensure their workplace health and safety measures protect employees and that ventilation is good across all settings. 

Covid will remain in our community; people will still get unwell, some will need hospital care, and business continuity may be impacted be outbreaks. 

With this is mind, we’d still encourage everyone to balance the risks wherever possible to try keep yourself and others safe. 

Continuing to wear face coverings in busy, indoor spaces, washing your hands and meeting in places with good ventilation are small acts that can still make a big difference. 

This is the start of a new phase for us all, and whilst we welcome a further step towards normality, it’s important to remember that Covid has not gone away and we now need to learn with it in the safest and fairest way possible.

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