The Government’s decision today to lift the public health protections place the most vulnerable among us at risk and could lead to even longer waiting lists for treatment.

The changes will lead to more and more people spreading COVID-19 unknowingly, leading to increasing pressure on an already overloaded NHS.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “Patients have been hugely responsible over the last two years and have made some difficult choices to protect themselves and loved ones. We have heard from many clinically vulnerable patients who feel left behind and who have spent most of the last two years shielding.

“And millions of other patients remain on waiting lists for treatment that could potentially be put at risk if there’s a spike in infections. What is urgently needed is a public health campaign that drives home the idea that if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should not leave the house and we need sickness pay measures to support this. Just removing this requirement gives the message that people don’t need to isolate.”

We think the Government should have waited to lift the requirement to self-isolate until COVID infections were much lower. Lateral flow tests should have remained free for the immediate future.

But we are pleased that the Office of National Statistics’ COVID survey will continue. The data from this is important for understanding new developments with COVID and responding to them.