The Guardian has reported that a ‘COVID exit strategy’ is being drawn up by the UK Government that could take effect from April. These reports are unconfirmed by the Government, but leaked documents from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have been obtained by the newspaper that show plans of winding down the official government-backed testing system and tracing operations. Under the plans, people would no longer be required to isolate for ten days if they contract COVID-19. The payment of £500 to those on low pay for supporting themselves during isolation would also end.
Further plans show that testing would be paid for, and left to the private marketplace. The existing regime, that requires people to get a free test if they have one of the main symptoms, would be wound down. The reports of the strategy come as the Government aims to avoid further COVID restrictions this winter through high booster vaccine uptake. Over 11 million people have now received a top-up COVID-19 vaccine. Over 90.4 million vaccines – first, second and top up jabs – have now been delivered in England alone.
On Sunday 14 November, sources from Number 10 denied that such plans were being drawn up. “No ministers have asked for this or seen it,” one source said. “It’s far too early to be talking about any of this stuff when don’t know where we will be in terms of case numbers or state of the pandemic.”