Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that the remaining COVID restrictions currently in place in England will be scrapped from Thursday, as he revealed his “living with Covid” plan for the country.
One of the biggest changes the PM explained to MPs in the House of Commons was that the legal duty to self-isolate after receiving a positive test will be removed.
Also, he announced that from 1st April 2022, free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will also end, with free testing only remaining for the most vulnerable.
Boris Johnson stated that the nation was now in a process of transitioning from “government restrictions to personal responsibility.”
“Before we begin I know the whole House will join me in sending our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen for a full and swift recovery. It is a reminder that this virus has not gone away,” the prime minister said.
“But because of the efforts we have made as a country over the past two years, we can now deal with it in a very different way, moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility, so we protect ourselves without losing our abilities and maintaining our contingent capabilities so we can respond rapidly to any new variant.”
“Until 1 April we will still advise people who test positive to stay at home but after that we will encourage people with COVID-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility, just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others,” he continued.
To his address to the country in the Downing Street conference alongside England’s chief medical officer, Prof Sir Chris Whitty and the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, he reiterated the importance of knowing that the virus has not disappeared, saying: “Today is not the day we can declare victory over Covid because this virus is not going away”.
Prof Sir Chris Whitty said that the removal of these restrictions was “gradual, steady change over a period of time.”
However, many have criticised the PM warning that it is too early for all the restrictions to be lifted.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer stated that the PM’s plans were “half-baked” and that his approach will leave the nation “vulnerable”.
“As a nation there is no doubt we need to move on from COVID. People need to know their liberties are returning and returning for good,” Starmer said.
“But this is a half-baked announcement from a government paralysed by chaos and incompetence. It is not a plan to live well with COVID.”
Medical expert Dr Hillary Jones, on ITV’s Good Morning Britain expressed his objection to this announcement.
“Those who are infected and infectious can wander around anywhere they want to spreading the Omicron variant wherever they please – including hospitals,” he said.
“If they visit hospitals, the potential for making people worse not better will be there. I think abandoning all Covid restrictions is too much. It is a mistake.”
List of changes
From Thursday 24th February:
- People who test positive for Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate, however, they 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 not be available
- Covid provisions for increased statutory sick pay will continue for a further month
From 1st April
- Free mass symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the 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
These changes will be subject to approval by Parliament.