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Mixed reaction to England’s easing of remaining restrictions 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to scrap all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England, including the requirement to self isolate.

At present, those in England that test positive have to self isolate for up to 10 days, but can cut their isolation short if they test negative on days five and six.

COVID testing would also take place at a “much lower level” and community PCR testing for people experiencing symptoms will cease under the new plan. Free mass lateral flow testing will end from April 1, with testing focusing on certain sections of the population.

Some industry figures have welcomed the news to end all remaining restrictions in England, including the Night Time Industries Association chief executive, Michael Kill.

He said: “The withdrawal of the remaining COVID restrictions is welcomed by the industry, and will further support business recovery and go some way to regaining customer confidence.

“Our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe remains our focus, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since July 19 2021.”

A spokesperson for the UK Door Security Association added: “During this extremely challenging time, door security resource levels remain at a critical level, with suppliers, licensed operators and the regulator working hard to continue to keep people safe on the frontline.

“The announcement by the PM of the withdrawal of the remaining COVID restrictions, particularly the withdrawal of isolation rules and the closure of COVID testing sites will be a boost to resource levels across the security industry.”

However, there are also some concerns within the live music sector that the lack of self isolating and testing could mean some fans miss out on the chance to watch their favourite artists.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd told NME: “On the one hand, changes to travel rules on testing and the forthcoming changes to isolation are positive moves for international travelling and will provide additional assurance to US, European and other artists that tours can go ahead as planned with a degree of certainty.

“On the negative side, it remains the case that a significant number of vulnerable people, particularly the immunosuppressed, face the choice of taking known risks to take part in live music, both artists and audiences.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, added: “While we welcome legal restrictions around COVID-19 coming to an end and the prospect of a full capacity festival season, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by the independent festival sector and the need for Government action remains.

“With festival organisers facing crippling cost increases of up to 30% across operations and infrastructure, this is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for Ministers.

“AIF reiterates its call for ongoing support from Government in the form of continued VAT relief on festival tickets to maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, and to also explore some form of Government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.”

A joint letter was sent to the Prime Minister from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Rob Swann, outlining their concern on the removal of testing.

Scotland has also recently announced that an extra £16m ($21m/€19m) has been made available for the creative sector, in order to help it continue its recovery.

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “This further £16m in support for the culture events, heritage and creative industries recognises how much we value these sectors which have been among those hit hardest by the pandemic.

“As we embark on our recovery, cultural activity has a pivotal role to play in reinvigorating our economy and communities as well as promoting individual well-being.”

Image: Nicholas Green on Unsplash