Living with COVID-19

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The UK government and the devolved nations have announced changes to the restrictions, COVID-19 testing and guidance for staying safe. Here, we summarise the changes and what they might mean for people living with Crohn’s or Colitis.

COVID-19 testing

Updated guidance and regulations:

What do the changes mean for people living with Crohn’s or Colitis?

What is happening with vaccinations?

What are we doing to support you?

Further information and support

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Last reviewed June 2022

COVID-19 testing

From 1 April in England, free COVID-19 testing for the general public ends. Free tests for people who have COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be provided to the following groups:

  • People who are eligible for COVID-19 antiviral and other treatments.
    • The UK Health Security Agency will send you one pack of lateral flow tests by 12 April. Only use them if you develop symptoms. If you run out, you can order more online or by calling 119. You can use any lateral flow tests supplied by the Government. Tests bought from a shop cannot currently be registered via GOV.UK or 119 and you will not be contacted about treatment if you test positive using these tests.
    • If you were previously sent a PCR test you can keep it. You might be asked to take a PCR if you receive treatment from the NHS.
  • Patients in hospital or people going into hospital for surgery or a procedure.
  • People living and working in high-risk settings such as care homes or the NHS.

If you are not in one of the groups listed here but you wish to test yourself for COVID-19, lateral flow tests will continue to be available to buy, in-store and online, from pharmacies and supermarkets.

Changes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Wales: From 1 April, people can no longer order free lateral flow tests unless they have symptoms of COVID-19. All PCR testing sites for the general public will close. 

Scotland: Until 18 April, lateral flow tests are still available for everyone, and PCR tests are available for people who have symptoms. After 18 April, updated guidance will be published on NHS Inform.

Northern Ireland: Until 22 April, anyone in Northern Ireland can continue to access free lateral flow tests. From 22 April, people can no longer order free lateral flow tests unless they have symptoms of COVID-19. All PCR testing sites for the general public will close.

 

Updated guidance and regulations

We are continuing to speak to the UK and devolved governments to make sure the concerns of people with Crohn’s and Colitis are addressed as the rules change.

Find out more about the main changes in each nation, and what we are doing to support you, below.

England

The UK government published its COVID-19 Response: Living with COVID-19 plan for England on 21 February. 

In the plan, the government set out how restrictions are being removed. Instead, people are encouraged to take personal responsibility for keeping themselves and others safe. These are the main changes.

From 24 February:

  • It is no longer a legal requirement to isolate if you test positive for COVID-19. But it is still strongly recommended. The government advises people who test positive for COVID-19 to stay at home and keep away from other people for at least 5 days, and until they have had two negative lateral flow tests at least 24 hours apart. This advice will be updated on 1 April, when routine testing will end in England.
  • Self isolation payments are no longer available for people who test positive for COVID-19 after 24 February. You might still be able to get statutory sick pay.
  • Routine contact tracing has ended. Instead, the UK government recommends that people who have COVID-19 tell anybody they’ve been in close contact with, so they can take steps to reduce their risk to others.
  • People who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19 no longer have to isolate or take daily lateral flow tests. The government has guidance on What to do if you are a close contact of someone who has had a positive test result for COVID-19

From 1 April:

Northern Ireland

On 15 February, the Northern Ireland government removed all legal restrictions relating to COVID-19. Instead, the rules have been replaced by guidance.

  • People can still access free lateral flow tests, or PCR tests if they have symptoms until 22 April. People who test positive are advised to isolate, although this is not a legal requirement.
  • Face coverings are no longer legally required in any venue. But they are still recommended in indoor areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet.
  • Venues are encouraged to ask for proof of COVID-19 status before letting people in, but they are no longer legally required to.
  • There is no longer a legal limit on the number of people who can meet indoors in a private home, but the government strongly recommends no more than 30.
  • Businesses are encouraged to carry on taking steps to reduce the risks from COVID-19 on their premises, but it is no longer a legal requirement.

Scotland

The Scottish government published its COVID-19 Strategic Framework Update on 22 February. Here are the main changes.

From 28 February:

  • Large events and late night venues are no longer legally required to ask for COVID certification before letting people in. The app is still available for venues that choose to carry on using it.

From around 21 March:

  • Businesses will be encouraged to carry on taking steps to reduce the risks from COVID-19 on their premises, but it will no longer be a legal requirement.

From 1 April:

  • It is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in places of worship or at marriage ceremonies, civil partnership registrations, funerals and commemorative events for a person who has died. 

In spring:

  • It will no longer be a legal requirement for people to wear face coverings on public transport or in indoor public places. Businesses and organisations can choose to keep face-covering policies if they feel it is right for their staff, customers or service users.
  • The Scottish government will review their testing and isolation policy. They have said they will move away from routine testing of people who do not have symptoms. But they will make sure testing continues to be available for people who need rapid access to early treatment. They have not set a date for this review yet. Until then, lateral flow tests are still available for everyone, and PCR tests are available for people who have symptoms.

The Scottish government also updated its guidance for people at higher risk from COVID-19 on 30 March.

Wales

The Welsh government has issued Public health advice for living alongside coronavirus.

Recent and upcoming changes are:

From 28 March:

  • Face coverings are legally required only in health and care settings
  • Workplaces and premises open to the public must continue to carry out a specific COVID-19 risk assessment and take reasonable steps to reduce the spread of the virus. As COVID-19 rates in Wales improve, employers and organisations will go back to following pre-pandemic health and safety laws. These still require them to take reasonable steps to protect their employees. They will still be advised to keep in place measures that have helped reduce the risk of COVID-19.
  • You are no longer legally required to self-isolate if you test positive, but you are strongly advised to.

From 1 April:

  • Free testing for most people who do not have symptoms will end. People who do have symptoms will still be able to access free testing. This is due to change from the end of June, when people who have symptoms will be advised to stay at home if they feel unwell instead. People who are at higher risk from COVID-19 who have symptoms will still be able to get free tests. This is so they can access treatment quickly if they need it.

From 18 April:

  • If the current public health situation remains stable, all remaining restrictions will be removed

What do the changes mean for people living with Crohn’s or Colitis?

We understand that some of you might be feeling anxious that restrictions are being relaxed.

We know a lot more about COVID-19 now than we did at the start of the pandemic. There is reassuring evidence that most people with Crohn’s and Colitis are not at higher risk of getting COVID-19 or having more serious illness because of their treatment. Your risk is higher if you are in a flare or having steroid treatment. So it is important to keep taking your Crohn’s and Colitis medicines to help keep your condition under control as much as possible. It is also important to have all the vaccine doses you are offered.

Some people might be worried about being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. At the moment, the advice for people at higher risk from COVID-19 varies slightly between the four nations.

  • In England, the government advises people who have weakened immune systems to work from home if this feels right for them.
  • In Northern Ireland and Wales, the government advises working from home if you can.
  •  In Scotland, the government is encouraging a mix of going into the workplace and working from home. Employers have been asked to consider the needs of people at highest risk when they make their plans. This might involve working from home for some people.

If you cannot work from home, or if you are worried about going into your workplace, talk to your employer about what they can do to reduce your risk. We have more information about COVID, work and finances.

Some people might find it reassuring that they, and their family and friends, can take a lateral flow test before meeting up. So you might feel concerned that access to free lateral flow tests is ending in some nations. The government has said that people who are at the highest risk from COVID-19 will still be able to access free lateral flow testing. They have not yet announced exactly who will be eligible or how they will access these tests. We will update our information when further details are available. We do not yet have details on whether this affects how people access early treatment for COVID-19.

People who are not eligible for free testing will be able to buy lateral flow tests from pharmacies or shops if they would like to. Pharmacies have said they will cost around £2 to £2.50 for a single test or £10 to £12 for a pack of five.

What is happening with vaccinations?

People who are over 75, people who live in care homes for older adults, and over 12s who have weakened immune systems will be offered a spring booster. We have separate information about this.

What are we doing to support you?

We are continuing to speak to the UK and devolved governments to make sure the concerns of people with Crohn’s and Colitis are addressed. We are working to clarify which people with Crohn’s and Colitis are included in the higher risk group. As part of a group of charities, we are asking that those people who are at higher risk:

  • Are identified quickly and reliably so they can get the information and support they need.

  • Are contacted promptly when there are any changes in guidance that relate to them.
  • Have employment protection and support for those who are not able to return to the workplace.
  • Continue to get free lateral flow tests for themselves, their family and carers.
  • Continue to have access to early antiviral treatment

We are also calling for:

  • Clarification about who is eligible for a spring booster dose, including how people will be identified and contacted.
  • A plan for preventative treatments for people who may not respond well to vaccination.

Further information and support

Find the latest government guidance where you live:

If you need support, we have put together some information and links to help you cope and improve your wellbeing:

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We know it can be difficult to live with, or support someone living with these conditions. But you’re not alone. We provide up-to-date, evidence-based information and can support you to live well with Crohn’s or Colitis.

Our helpline team can provide information on a range of subjects including:

  • Managing Symptoms
  • Disability benefits
  • Medication
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  • Test and diagnosis
  • Wellbeing
  • Employment
  • Help to find support from others living with the condition

Please contact us via telephone, email or LiveChat - 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (except English bank holidays).

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If you need specific medical advice about your condition, your GP or IBD team will be best placed to help.