'Living with Covid cannot mean simply ignoring it' - Sunderland MPs slam end of self-isolation rules and universal free testing

Sunderland’s MPs have slammed government plans to scrap a raft of anti-Covid measures.

By James Harrison
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 3:37 pm

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Universal free testing for coronavirus is also set to be drastically scaled back from April.

But the move has prompted opposition anger, with critics branding it another attempt to divert attention away from scandals such as the ongoing police investigation into claims of lock-down busting parties in Downing Street.

(left to right) Chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, to outline the Government's new long-term Covid-19 plan. Picture date: Monday February 21, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus . Photo credit should read: Tolga Akmen/PA Wire

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"Labour, along with the whole country, wants to see an end to restrictions,” said Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South and shadow education secretary.

“The government should publish the evidence behind this decision, so the public can have faith that it is being made in the national interest, not simply to distract from the police knocking on the Prime Minister’s door.

"Living with Covid cannot mean simply ignoring it.

Bridget Phillipson.

“Now is not the time to start charging for tests or weaken sick pay, when people are still being asked to behave responsibly.”

Under the proposals unveiled by Johnson, which are yet to be formally approved by Parliament, those who test positive for Covid-19 will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law.

Changes to sick pay rules and employment support introduced to help workers through earlier stages of the pandemic are expected to end on March 24.

Sharon Hodgson

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson added: "While nobody wants restrictions to go on for a moment longer than they have to, the Government’s scrapping of free testing at this crucial stage is like subbing off your best defender in the last 10 minutes when you’re a goal up.

“I cannot see the reasoning behind the decision and call on the Government to publish the advice they have received.

“Perhaps the Chancellor is feeling the pinch after billions of pounds of public money were wasted on dodgy PPE."

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