The Musicians’ Union (MU), whilst welcoming in principle the scrapping of restrictions taking effect in England from today, has expressed serious concerns about how the end of free testing may affect its members.
The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday stated that Covid-19 restrictions and free mass testing will end in England, with people who test positive for Covid no longer having to isolate by law and from April will not even be advised to stay at home if infected.
Naomi Pohl, MU Deputy General Secretary, said:
“We are aware that clinically vulnerable musicians in particular will have real worries about this announcement. With the music industry in recovery from the Covid-19 crisis but widely using testing, it also remains to see what the impact may be on, for example, live performances, studio sessions and orchestral work.
“Most musicians are self-employed and may have to bear the costs of tests and generally will not receive any sick pay or cancellation fees if they contract Covid and choose to isolate to protect their colleagues. We have written to the Government to ask that free testing is retained for workers, like musicians, who are generally unable to work from home and often unable to socially distance.
“In addition, we are encouraging members to email their MP with their concerns at the end of free testing, with particular emphasis on how the end of access to free Lateral Flow Tests and PCR Tests is likely to affect their ability to work.”
Scotland’s Covid passport scheme is set to end on Monday 28 February with the legal requirement to wear face masks being lifted on 21 March. For now, self-isolation for those who test positive will remain in place. Restrictions in Wales and Northern Ireland are still subject to review.
Free testing will also end for the majority of people from Friday 1 April and those on low pay will no longer get financial support to isolate if they test positive. Sick pay will revert to pre-pandemic rules, with eligibility from day four of illness rather than day one.
Joint Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy research in September 2021 revealed that 40% of clinically extremely vulnerable musicians would still have to shield beyond the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the end of the vaccine roll-out to protect their health or the health of someone with whom they live.
The research also showed that nearly 60% of musicians and music creators received no financial support whilst shielding (60% of these because they did not meet the eligibility criteria), and over 60% anticipate they will lose 50-100% of their usual income or work opportunities to September 2022 because of their continued need to shield.