This week the government announced its plan for living safely with Covid-19. The plan centres on vaccines as the first line of defence against coronavirus and encourages safe behaviours based on public health advice, rather than restrictions enforced by law.
The plan acknowledges that Covid-19 is here to stay and explains that the virus will be managed in future in a similar way to other infectious diseases such as flu. The prevalence of Covid is decreasing and there is great progress being made on treatments. Nonetheless, the lifting of the restrictions designed to keep us all safe may be a source of anxiety for those who feel vulnerable. As we adjust to the new normal, we can support one another by remembering the simple precautions and consideration for others that have become part of everyday life.
In this update we will outline the implications of the new approach for people in Leeds, and the support available for individuals, businesses and communities as we look ahead to the Covid recovery period.
Living with Covid in England
The government’s living with Covid plan is being phased in between now and April and includes some key changes that will impact families and individuals.
Self-isolation is no longer legally enforced if you test positive for Covid-19. Instead you are strongly advised to self-isolate until you test negative on two consecutive days. The rules requiring close contacts to test or isolate, depending on their age and vaccination status, have ceased to apply and contact tracing has stopped.
As a result, provision for people self-isolating has ended, including support payments, nationally funded practical assistance and medicine delivery services. The Covid-19 provisions which expedited the payment of statutory sick pay and employment support allowance will end on 24 March. For help and advice if you are struggling financially visit help with food and household bills on the council website.
Testing provision will be scaled back under the living with Covid plan to focus on the most at-risk groups. Lateral flow tests will no longer be freely available after 31 March. Refreshed guidance will be issued advising people how to maintain safe behaviours and minimise the risk of infection for themselves and others.
In the spring, the vaccination programme will expand to offer an additional booster dose to those most at risk from Covid-19, including over-75s, older care home residents and vulnerable people over the age of 12.
Living with Covid-19 in Leeds
The Covid case rate in Leeds has declined by 26% in the past week, to 348 per 100K. Although the city’s case rate is lower than the rate in England, the trend reflects the national position with infections remaining high despite the gradual fall in numbers.
Public health advice in Leeds is therefore to remain cautious and take whatever action you can to prevent the spread of infection. Please continue to stay at home if you are unwell, let in fresh air when indoors, wash your hands regularly and wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces.
The Covid vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from infection and serious illness. Whether you need a first, second or booster dose the vaccine offer remains in place across the city. Visit the NHS in Leeds for details of local clinics.
The government’s living with Covid plan addresses future monitoring and management of coronavirus. Leeds City Council’s public health team will continue to work closely with health service colleagues to monitor the local position, contain outbreaks and manage any new variants of concern.
For local information and links to the latest national guidance visit the coronavirus page on the council website.
Applications invited for hospitality and leisure grants
There is still time to apply for financial support if you run a hospitality, leisure or accommodation business which was affected by coronavirus restrictions.
The Omicron hospitality and leisure grant is offered to businesses based in Leeds at premises subject to business rates. Applicants must have been registered as the current rate payer on 30 December 2021.
The grants are worth up to £6,000 depending on the rateable value of your premises. Please apply online by the deadline of Friday 18 March.
Energy bills rebate to reach households via council tax
The government recently announced that in April they will provide a one-off energy bills rebate of £150 for most households in council tax bands A to D. You will not have to repay this money, which is to help you with rising energy costs.
We will administer the payment via the council tax billing system, so if you think you may be eligible you don’t need to do anything for now. We will be in touch with more information shortly once the government has clarified how the system will work.
You may wish to arrange payment by Direct Debit if you don’t already pay your council tax this way. This will help us pay the rebate to you as quickly as possible. Find out more at How to pay your council tax.
Join our outstanding social care team
Are you looking for rewarding work as we move on from Covid-19? Could you make a positive difference to some of the most vulnerable people in Leeds? Our award-winning social care team needs you!
Visit Leeds City Council’s Jobs and careers page to find opportunities for experienced and newly qualified professionals – in social care and many other roles too.
Local theatres stage a recovery with 2-for-1 tickets
The cultural recovery is well underway after successive lockdowns forced the arts sector online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leeds theatres are taking part in the Love Your Local Theatre campaign, supported by The National Lottery, which aims to encourage post-Covid recovery in the entertainment industry.
The campaign offers 2-for-1 theatre tickets to National Lottery players. Visit Love Your Local Theatre to find a participating venue near you.