Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Anxious or relieved? Cable readers on ‘living with Covid’ plans

Most readers who shared their views were against the lifting of rules on self-isolation and the end of mass testing from April. But some welcomed the new freedoms.

Cable Community News

A moment of relief or anxiety? Nearly two years after the pandemic took hold in the UK, this week the government announced the end of Covid restrictions in England and the end of the mass testing in April. 

The decision that we’re ready to ‘live with Covid’ has divided opinion: those burdened by pandemic fatigue are desperate to return to normal, while others remain worried about high infection rates and how the changes will hit the most vulnerable. That’s why we asked Cable readers what they thought about this momentous point in the pandemic. 

The main changes are that people who test positive will no longer be legally required to self isolate but instead will be advised to stay at home for five days. And then from April, mass testing will end and people with symptoms will be advised to use their own judgment on whether to stay at home or not. 

Of the Cable readers who answered our callout, nearly two thirds said they were against the ending of restrictions, while 17% were in support and 16% were not sure. 

The main reasons for opposition were that it was too early to relax self-isolation rules, which would risk further spread of the virus, that the changes would put vulnerable people at risk. They also said the decision was a purely political one – a popular move to ease the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the recent Partygate scandal – and would have an economic impact on those not entitled to paid sick leave or unable to afford private tests. 

Vulnerable people at greater risk

Lots of readers were worried about the impact on vulnerable people who might catch the virus. Not only would they be put at extra risk, they said, but the lack of restrictions and mass testing could also contribute to anxiety and some people feeling unable to go to public places and have close contact with others.  

Pete was one of numerous people who said they felt anxious or scared about their own health:

“I am classed as clinically vulnerable, so I am now taking my life in my hands every time I come into contact with people I don’t know. I am expected to go into shops and other public spaces, go back to the office, and use public transport with people who will no longer wear a mask or test or isolate if they have the virus. I feel like I’m being classed as a ‘regrettable casualty’ already.”

Others were worried about other vulnerable people – both in general and for friends and loved ones. Linnet said she was “appalled” at the changes. “I visit and help to care for my mother twice weekly in her supported living accommodation. Tests will no longer be free for visitors to elderly people in care settings. My mother is 93 and even a slight cold gives her pneumonia. I have to test twice a week to go on visiting. Boots are charging £5.99 for a single lateral flow test. For me £622.96 a year. I’m a pensioner myself and can’t afford this.”

Jane said: “I will be anxious for the well being of my adult son who has recently undergone a kidney transplant so will be especially vulnerable over the coming months.”

NHS workers also had their say. Alexander Carpenter, who is a doctor, described the move as “rushed”. “I think the risk of long Covid or death remains too high for this level of relaxation,” he said.

A nurse, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I’m lucky in that my employer still requires us to test and would pay me to isolate. But for how long? And many employers already don’t. I’ve heard people say only the clinically vulnerable should have to continue to take precautions but how can they when they interact with the rest of society like everyone else? This will make Covid a disease of the poor and vulnerable. Zero hours workers and the self-employed will not be paid to stay off work when infectious.”

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

To test or not to test?

One of the reasons cited by the government for ending mass testing from April onwards was the cost – £2 billion in January alone, but nonetheless, many were critical. Jane said: “I think the end of mass testing is grossly irresponsible, especially when for most, but not all, Covid symptoms can be easily confused with a mild cold.”

Multiple people said they were already anxious about going into public places, but the lack of available testing would make this even harder.

“I will be more scared to go out and about as it means more people with Covid will be around. It also means I can’t see anyone old if I’ve got a sniffle, as I won’t know if it’s Covid or not after the end of free testing!”


Another reader said: “Testing ahead of going to see elderly relatives, before/after going to busy events or when wanting to stay overnight seems entirely sensible and a way of life for the time being. Like wearing a mask, hand washing etc. It doesn’t take long to break those habits and revert to the life we lived before – but that life is gone. 

Stephen said: “Free mass testing is expensive. But if employers don’t pick up the tab, people will go to work with Covid, not knowing they have it, and spread it to others, who won’t know they have it. To save public money, is that a price worth paying?”

Support for greater freedoms

Despite more people being critical of the changes, some readers expressed relief and support for the lifting of rules. Linda said: “At the present time, Covid feels like a common cold. So it makes sense that from now till the next variant of concern, we live freely.

“I’m relieved,” another reader said. “I think this will mean we need to take more personal responsibility.

Paul said: “With the vast majority of the adult population treble vaccinated, it is time to stop treating Covid-19 as something that justifies limiting our lives.”

In addition, a considerable number of people were in two minds on the government’s announcement. Nick Plant said: “I am torn between feeling liberated (because testing, isolation periods are such a bore) and scared (because I think the government has put its populist needs before the health needs of its people).

One reader said: “It is clear that Covid is staggeringly transmissible; those who wore masks everywhere, were triple vaxxed still caught it, so is it a sensible solution to have a policy based on trying to stop people catching it? It feels a bit like trying to hold back the tide. 

“Surely it would be a better policy to focus on making sure that those who catch it receive the level of treatment that stops major harm. Covid, and the reaction to Covid, are unparalleled in my lifetime, so it is not surprising that we are scared to move on. I think we need to, and if not now, when? There will be Covid infections for years to come, but luckily they will be nowhere near as harmful as they were in 2020, thanks to vaccines.”

Dominic said: “Everyone does need to start getting on with their lives but these changes even if a good idea have been brought in now to shore up Boris Johnson.”

Numerous other readers also said that the timing of the easing was too early, and purely based on the need to ease pressure on the Prime Minister, who has faced repeated calls to resign and is currently being investigated by police over a series of parties at Number 10 that appear to have broken lockdown rules at different points of the pandemic.

Unequal economic impact

The £500 payment for people self-isolating on low incomes will also come to an end, as will the extra provisions for statutory sick pay relating to Covid. Lots of readers raised the unequal economic impact of this as a major concern. 

“I feel the biggest restriction is that some workers won’t be covered by sick pay and will feel they have to come to work. We already have this for lots of people with poor work contracts but it will make it worse. This is a poverty issue. Those of us who are retired or can work from home will continue to be advantaged while others will be in a worse situation. I have got mixed feelings about this.”

Mary Feerick

“It is totally grim,” said Noah Berman. “It will create a two-tier system, where people who can afford testing, ventilation improvements, private transport, and so on, will be able to go about their lives more or less ‘normally’, while the rest of us are – needlessly! – always a one chance encounter away from sickness, disability, death. People will be forced to go into work while sick and then have to spend the rest of their lives knowing they might have infected co-workers or clients or whomever. It did not have to be this way!”

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

  • The biggest risk of this change in tack is clearly to the large number of people classed as clinically vulnerable, either in the community or in hospitals. As a doctor with vulnerable patients how do I prevent them catching this virus from me if I don’t know whether or not I have it, every time I get a sniffle? Do I isolate for 5 days every time just in case? That’s worse than now when at least so can test to prove whether or not I am safe to work and treat my at risk patients. The NHS is already under enormous pressure and this is going to make it worse. No wonder Sajid Javid was arguing against cutting to this level.

    And the reality is that the Tory government have brought in the changes not because of the public health perspective but rather to “save money”. Yet billions of pounds has been lost to fraud in the past 2 years that has just been written off. That’s a scandal.


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

LIVE: Bristol general election results, as Greens win Bristol Central and Labour gains seats off Tories

Bristol general election results 2024: Labour will be looking to take seats off the Tories on the edge of Bristol in the general election, while the Greens have their eyes on Bristol Central.

Watch: Why you should back the Cable – in 60 seconds

A breakdown of all the things we've managed to achieve for Bristol in almost a decade of reporting.

We’re working to diversify the Cable team. Let’s start with our freelancer base

The Cable exists to challenge the structure of the media, but we are not representative enough of our city. Here’s what we’re doing to change things.

Council forced to place vulnerable children into illegal homes because system is ‘broken’, says leader

Cllr Tony Dyer say the root cause was a lack of accommodation for vulnerable youngsters and that this needed to be fixed.

Early failures by council in Bristol Beacon revamp cost millions, report finds

The cost of refurbishing the iconic Bristol music venue almost tripled from £48million to £132million.

Listen: Cable Longreads – ‘Hollow victory’: a rape survivor’s journey through broken justice system

Cable reporter Priyanka Raval investigated whether the police's new approach to prosecuting sexual violence is really making a difference to survivors.

‘Collective power is where it’s at’: City Academy workers celebrate strike action successes

Union members at the east Bristol secondary school have achieved most of a series of asks from the academy trust that manages it, after announcing rolling walkouts. Workers say the action has brought staff together.

Cable Live x Bristol Transformed – can Apartheid-Free Zones help liberate Palestine?

The panel asks what was the St Paul’s Apartheid-Free Zone – and how can it be a model in today’s fight for Palestinian freedom?

Watchdog finds ‘serious failings’ after concluding council does not know what state its housing is in

Bristol City Council has been called out by a government regulator for not meeting new quality standards, with thousands of repairs and damp and mould cases long overdue for action and many safety check records missing.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning