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Prime Minister Announces End to Covid-19 Restrictions and Free Mass Testing in England

The Prime Minister announced on Monday 21 February that Covid-19 restrictions and free mass testing will end in England. Scotland has also announced changes. Restrictions in Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to be reviewed.

Published: 23 February 2022 | 10:30 AM
A blue sticker on the floor of a bridge above a train station, the sticker reads
Whilst the scrapping of some restrictions may well be welcomed by many members, the MU has serious concerns about how the end of free testing may affect musicians. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Prime Minister’s announcement will mean that in England:

  • People who test positive for Covid will no longer have to isolate by law from this Thursday 24 February – and from April will not even be advised to stay at home if infected
  • Contact tracing will end from Thursday 24 February and contacts of people testing positive will no longer have to test or isolate
  • Schools and other education settings will no longer be advised to test twice-weekly, with immediate effect
  • NHS and social care staff will no longer get asymptomatic testing but this is expected to continue for patients and care home residents
  • Covid passports will be scrapped from Friday 1 April, with venues no longer recommended to use them. They will still be available for international travel.

Scotland's Covid passport scheme will end on 28 February with the legal requirement to wear face masks being lifted on 21 March. For now self isolation for those who test positive will remain in place.

Free testing will also end for the majority of people from Friday 1 April and those on low pay will no longer get financial support to isolate if they test positive. Sick pay will revert to pre-pandemic rules, with eligibility from day four of illness rather than day one.

Whilst the scrapping of some restrictions may well be welcomed by many members, the MU has serious concerns about how the end of free testing may affect musicians. We are also aware that many vulnerable members will have real worries about this announcement.

It is also likely to have a real impact on orchestral and studio based work, which has gradually been returning to normal after almost two years of social distancing and cancellations.

Calling for free Covid-19 testing to continue

The MU has written to the Government to ask that free testing be retained for workers, like musicians, who are generally unable to work from home and often unable to socially distance.

Members are encouraged to email their MP with their concerns at the end of free testing. You can find your MP’s email address on the official Parliament website.

Key points to raise are:

  • The Musicians’ Union has serious concerns about how the end of free testing may affect all musicians, and in particular clinically extremely vulnerable musicians.
  • Joint Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy research in September 2021 revealed that 40% of clinically extremely vulnerable musicians would still have to shield beyond the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the end of the vaccine roll-out to protect their health or the health of someone they live with.
  • The research also showed that nearly 60% of musicians and music creators received no financial support whilst shielding (60% of these because they did not meet the eligibility criteria), and over 60% anticipate they will lose 50-100% of their usual income or work opportunities to September 2022 because of their continued need to shield.

Be sure to add how the end of access to free Lateral Flow Tests and PCR Tests are likely to affect you and your ability to work. Personal stories from constituents make all the difference.

Meaningful statutory sick pay

No one who tests positive for Covid-19 should feel forced to go to work because they can’t afford to pay their bills. Yet even for those who do qualify for statutory sick pay, the current payment of £96.35 a week is not enough to cover essentials. And it’s going down in real terms, a TUC report recently revealed that statutory sick pay is worth £3 per week less now compared to at the start of pandemic.

That’s why the MU is also supporting the TUC’s Sick Pay for All campaign. Find out more and sign the TUC petition.

For specific advice and support on the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, please contact your Regional office.

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