‘People won’t know if they are infected’: Britons on the end of Covid controls

From Thursday, people who test positive for coronavirus are no longer required to self-isolate by law in England. Free mass testing for the general public in England will end on 1 April.

The change is part of the government’s new “living with Covid” plan, announced earlier this week, which will see the end of all pandemic regulations.

Five people share their reactions below.

“I wouldn’t go out if I tested positive for Covid. I’d worry about spreading it to people who could suffer dire consequences. There’s still a high death rate and a lot of people who are compromised, who haven’t got much freedom to be on public transport or in the workplace. So if I knew I had Covid, I would certainly not go out and about with it.

“I have the luxury of taking that view, because my employer would accommodate it and I also have sick pay. It just worries me that other people won’t have that choice.

“I think, by and large, people are trying to be decent and mutually protect each other. In a way, we’re being exhorted to drop that, but I think people will continue to do their best.” Kathy, 59, administrator, London

“I’ve been shielding for two years, but think I will be returning to the office part-time in the middle of next month. I am worried about people at work testing positive. The current plan is that I will be working a good distance from everyone else at a desk right beside a large window I can open. I will probably remain masked, too. But the problem will be after April, when people won’t know if they are infected.

“My greatest anxiety is about commuting on public transport and being in close contact with unmasked people. I also have to deal with members of the public in my role, but I have been assured that I will not be required to meet them face to face. My employer has been quite understanding so far and if the work from home guidance hadn’t been withdrawn then I think they would have kept me at home. Harry*, 34, working in local government, Durham, who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable

“I’ve not been testing and never have. The only time was when I came back from Spain because I had to in order to travel. I want to stress that I’m not anti-vaxx, as I’ve had all my jabs.

“It’s all madness. This ridiculous desire to test for Covid is insanity and has really affected people’s mental health and should’ve stopped a long time ago. If I’m unwell, whether it’s with Covid or the flu, I will just stay at home until I feel better. It’s the way I’ve done it in the past and I seem to have survived.

“I know asymptomatic transmission of Covid is possible, but it seems to be very, very unlikely. The only time I would really have an issue with it is if someone came out with a streaming cold when they should be at home.” Norma, Cotswolds

“I guess I would fall into the more cautious spectrum, in terms of Covid. And so, I’ve been pretty careful all the way through. I don’t think I’ve had it, and I don’t think I would want to go out if I was ill, let alone the risks to the rest of the population.

“If I contracted Covid, I wouldn’t be wanting to pass it to anyone else. I wouldn’t want to pass any illness on to anyone else now we’ve gone through this.

“I received an email from my work today saying that, even though the rules have changed, the company will continue to follow the guidance. That sort of sensible, head-screwed-on approach is, as I see it, the way forward for the time being until something changes. Ben, 42, Bristol, record label employee

“There’s no way I would go out infecting other people, and I think everyone should be supported to make that choice. I just feel that it’s very unfair. We’re in a situation where we had children perhaps later than we would have liked, which meant we’ve been able to pay off our mortgage. We can make decisions that better protect my mother, ourselves and society.

“Others aren’t in that position. Statutory sick pay is just [under] £14 a day. Testing is going to be something that people have to pay for. People aren’t going to be aware that they’re positive, and they’re not going to be able to afford to stay at home even if they want to. The message is ‘Just get on with life. It’s just like the flu.’ It’s clearly not. It’s clearly still causing a lot of damage. It just seems barbaric really.” Sarah, Nottingham, 44, teacher and stay-at-home parent

*Name has been changed

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