NHS can safely REMOVE tough Covid infection control measures to ease burden on staff, says Javid

THE NHS can start removing tough Covid infection control measures that have been in place for more than a year.

In another move towards a “new normal” with the virus, the Health Secretary said it would take the pressure off worn-out NHS staff.

It comes after a huge vaccination drive which has seen 89.6 per cent of over 16s get one dose, and 82.3 per cent get two doses so far.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said "ever more people" are benefitting from the "protection of our phenomenal vaccination campaign".

As a result, "we can now safely begin to relieve some of the most stringent infection control where they are no longer necessary to benefit patients and ease the burden on hardworking NHS staff", he said.

Since Covid tore through the UK in early 2020, the NHS was forced to follow new guidance to prevent patients catching it in hospitals.

It included extensive wearing of PPE, cancellation of operations and social distancing throughout sites.

This meant fewer non-Covid patients could be seen, driving up a huge backlog of problems – including a 5.6 million waiting list in England.

But now – despite there still being just shy of 800 Covid admissions each day in the UK – experts believe it’s safe to strip back the rules.

Less social distancing, testing of patients and cleaning will be required.

The recommendation comes from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and focuses on elective care – planned procedures like hip and knee replacements.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said after reviewing guidance, "local providers can start to safely remove some of the interventions that have been in place in elective care specifically for Covid-19".

“This is a first step to help the NHS treat more patients more quickly, while ensuring their safety and balancing their different needs for care," she said.

People will no longer need to social distance for more than one metre where patients can be controlled (for example, not in A&E).

A negative Covid test and three days self isolation will no longer be required before selected operations.

And hospitals can switch back to standard cleaning in low-risk areas.

The World Health Organization and other international authorities have said Covid is not as likely to transmit through touching surfaces.

Government scientific advisers have also said hand hygiene is likely to be more effective than enhanced cleaning for reducing transmission.

This together is hoped to allow for more capacity to treat people in the NHS while reducing pressure on staff.

Staff working in areas where Covid control measures have been relaxed should be fully vaccinated, however.

It’s only the first step to remove barriers in healthcare, with other environments like the dentist and ambulances to be next, Public Health England said.

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