Most of us are no doubt sick to the back teeth with the term ‘back to normal’, however for the first time in a long, long while the future certainly looks bright. With the Omnicron variant of COVID-19 still causing concern, it seems that the worst of it Is firmly behind us with much of the guidance surrounding the pandemic (including wearing masks in indoor public spaces and working from home) no longer in effect.
The latest set of measures announced by the PM Boris Johnson on Monday 21st February 2022 has put an end to all COVID restrictions as of Thursday 24th February 2022, with a plan set out to live with COVID moving forward. Along with the end to all COVID restrictions, the PM also announced that symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public will end on 1st April 2022, and will instead be targeted towards the most vulnerable.
We break down exactly what will come into effect and when, as well as what support is still out there for individuals and businesses related to the pandemic…
What Does The Ending Of All COVID Restrictions Mean?
As announced by the PM, from Thursday 24 February 2022:
- People who test positive for Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate but will still be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days.
- Routine contact tracing will end, so fully-vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 will no longer be legally required to test daily for seven days.
- The £500 self-isolation support payment for people on low incomes who test positive for COVID will no longer be available.
- Covid provisions for increased statutory sick pay will apply for a further month.
As well as this, the PM also announced from Friday 1st April 2022:
- Free mass symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public will end, and will instead be targeted towards the most vulnerable.
- People with COVID symptoms will be asked to exercise personal responsibility when deciding whether to stay at home – until then they are still advised to do so.
- Current government guidance on COVID passports will end and it will no longer recommend venues use the NHS Covid pass.
The PM has chosen to declare the end of these restrictions due to the high levels of immunity across the nation, as well as deaths now a lot lower than previously expected at this time of year. Setting out the plan to live with COVID, the PM stated, “”today is not the day we can declare victory over Covid because this virus is not going away.”
There has been much debate among scientific and health experts as to whether the restrictions are a good idea, particularly as cases, hospital admissions and deaths are still relatively high. The latest Office For National Statistics (ONS) press release estimated that there are still 1 in every 25 people testing positive for COVID in England. There are also worries that should another variant come about, would the UK be able to sustain its resilience to the virus whether that means another lockdown or not. The government maintains its stance that targeted vaccines and treatments are the best line of future defence, with the ‘most vulnerable’ and ‘at risk’ encouraged to get another booster jab (the 4th vaccine dose) this spring. This group is yet to be clearly defined as of yet by the government, however it’s expected to be over-75s and over 12s with severe health conditions.
What Support Is Still Available For People Relative To COVID-19?
Despite the ending of restrictions, as well as financial support for those affected by COVID, there is still support available for the public. This includes the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which will eventually close for COVID-related absences after 17 March 2022, with employers having up to 24th March 2022 to submit or amend any claims that have already been submitted.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the Statutory Sick Pay paid (£96.35 per week) to current or former employees who were off work on or after 21 December 2021. The maximum amount of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is currently capped at 28 weeks, however the government could choose to decrease this soon.
During the pandemic, and still presently, a large number of employees undergo working from home. It’s possible to claim tax relief for additional household costs if you have to work at home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week. This includes if you have to work from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
You cannot claim tax relief if you choose to work from home and you cannot claim for the whole bill, just the part that relates to your work.
You may be able to claim tax relief for:
- gas and electricity
- metered water
- business phone calls, including dial-up internet access
You can either claim tax relief on:
- £6 a week from 6 April 2020 (for previous tax years the rate is £4 a week) – you will not need to keep evidence of your extra costs.
- the exact amount of extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount – you’ll need evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts.
You’ll get tax relief based on the rate at which you pay tax. For example, if you pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week you would get £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6).
In terms of lateral flow tests, as stated all free testing will end on April 1st 2022. Limited symptomatic testing will be available for a small number of at risk groups, which will be set out in further detail shortly. Free symptomatic testing will also remain available to social care staff.
The government are working with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to can buy a test. The market for tests is likely to experience a huge boom, with Boots offering individual lateral flow tests for as much as £5.99, including delivery, whilst Superdrug have announced it will sell individual lateral flow tests for under £2. As well as this, to prevent stockpiling of free lateral flow tests before 1st April, people will only be able to order a box of tests every three days instead of every 24 hours.
In terms of financial support, as stated the government have ended all stimulus packages including furlough, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme). These government loans provided immense aid for struggling people and businesses during the pandemic, however these were very restrictive in terms of the type of funding available. Many financial lenders are still offering businesses and individuals additional funding to help them through the effects and recovery of COVID, with tailored products in terms of amount, industry specificity, and time to pay back. For more information, you can get into contact with our Head of Corporate Finance, Darren Hahn, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope this has outlined to you the new set of measures announced by the government, and what support is still available as restrictions end. If you require any further information on COVID measures, funding, or anything accounting related for that matter, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.