People urged to be "sensible and cautious" in fight against Covid as PM ends legal requirement to isolate from Thursday

Council leaders have urged people to stay vigilant in the fight against coronavirus after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a requirement to isolate is to end.

People who test positive for coronavirus will no longer be legally required to isolate from Thursday, and free universal testing will end in April under Boris Johnson’s plan for “living with Covid.”

Those who receive a positive Covid-19 test will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law under the plans subject to parliamentary approval.

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

Prime Minister leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to update MPs in the House of Commons with the plan for living with Covid-19. Picture date: Monday February 21, 2022.

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

People aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed and those living in care homes will be offered another Covid-19 booster vaccine this spring under the plans.

But free universal testing will be massively scaled back from April 1 and will instead be focused on the most vulnerable.

Mr Johnson warned the “pandemic is not over” but insisted people must “learn to live with the virus” and that “it is time we got our confidence back.”

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In response to his plans, the leaders of the LA7 group which includes Sunderland and South Tyneside urged people to stay vigilant.

In a statement, signed by Sunderland City Council leader, Cllr Graeme Miller, and South Tyneside Council leader, Cllr Tracey Dixon, they said: “While the law may be changing, the fact that these measures help to reduce infections, prevent illness, and help keep yourself and those around you safe has not changed.

“The lifting of these requirements does not mean the pandemic is over. Covid-19 continues to spread and people of all ages remain susceptible to infection.

“We would continue to ask you to be sensible and cautious in the weeks and months ahead as we all learn to live with Covid.

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“While the pandemic has had a significant impact upon us all, please be considerate of those who may be more vulnerable or nervous than you as restrictions and requirements are lifted. For some, this will be a daunting time if they are at greater risk of serious illness. Please, continue to be kind.

“We are in a very different place to where we were when the pandemic began. We have a largely-vaccinated population offering a very good level of community protection, and we of course understand the need for people to get on with their lives and focus on their physical and mental well-being. Living with Covid is new to us all, but communities have stuck together through all we have faced so we are confident you will do the same again.

“Working together as a region has got us this far in challenging and uncertain times, and that is exactly how we will continue through this next stage. We will do all we can to make sure we progress smoothly and protect our most vulnerable residents, limit the pressures on health services, keep children in school, and help our region recover from the effects of the pandemic.”