BoJo to Scrap Forced Quarantine After Positive Test in UK as Part of ‘Living With Covid-19’ Plan
05:31 GMT 20.02.2022 (Updated: 15:18 GMT 28.05.2023)
As Boris Johnson appeared in the Commons before Parliament went on recess, the UK's Prime Minister had announced that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England, including the legal rule to self-isolate if one tested positive, could end a month earlier than the planned date of 24 March, as long as the positive trends in the data continued.
Boris Johnson is gearing up to announce an end to legal pandemic restrictions
, including the duty to quarantine after testing positive, as part of his “living with COVID-19” plan.
Downing Street has confirmed in a press release
that the UK Prime Minister will outline on Monday the government’s strategy to expand freedoms back towards pre-pandemic norms as he addresses MPs returning to parliament after February recess.
Vaccines and other pharmaceutical interventions will be maintained as the “first line of defence” against the respiratory virus, as well as surveillance systems and specific contingency measures if needed, such as boosted testing capacity to respond to new variants.
“Covid will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms...Thanks to our successful vaccination programme and the sheer magnitude of people who have come forward to be jabbed, we are now in a position to set out our plan for living with Covid this week,” stated Johnson.
The PM hailed Plan B which had been implemented to slow the spread of the disease while getting more people vaccinated. The government had launched its campaign, "Get Boosted Now", offering all adults a booster dose by the New Year, resulting in close to 38 million boosters being administered.
31 January 2022, 09:33 GMT
During PM’s Questions ahead of parliamentary recess, lasting until 21 February, the Prime Minister had told MPs he anticipated the last domestic pandemic rules would be scrapped early as long as the positive trends continued.
"It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid," Johnson had said.
"Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions - including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive - a full month early," insisted the PM.
Earlier, in January, Boris Johnson had expected the restrictions would end on 24 March, but had also hinted they could be eliminated sooner.
The government’s plan, set to be outlined next week, is expected to focus on removing regulations and requirements, while laying greater emphasis on public health guidance – similar to the way infectious diseases, such as the flu, are managed.
There is still no clarity regarding the scale of free testing that is to be retained. Current data, cited by The Guardian, suggests almost 4 million people take regular COVID-19
Free, home-delivered lateral flow tests (LFTs) for all are likely to be scrapped within weeks, writes the outlet, adding that there reports of heated discussions among ministers over the issue.
While some are believed to be pushing for a continuation of mass surveillance of the virus, others argue the need to reign in this costly aspect of public spending.
There is reportedly ongoing discussion regarding when to rescind advice for schools and universities to get tested twice a week, as people with COVID symptoms may be moved off PCR tests to Lateral Flow tests (LFT).
As for contact tracing, it is most likely set to be scaled back. Furthermore, “support payments” worth £500 for low-income workers who could not afford to miss work when required to quarantine could also be ended, writes the publication.
20 January 2022, 11:27 GMT
Regarding masks, since plan B was scrapped in England a month ago, face coverings have become optional on most public transport and in shops. Masks remain mandatory in healthcare settings such as hospitals, but their fate is also to be decided by ministers.
Tough travel restrictions, such as the “red list”, which were already ditched earlier, are reportedly to remain “in reserve” in case they might be needed to redirect arrivals from a particular country into hotel quarantine.
Unvaccinated people will still need to take a COVID-19 test before they travel to England and another within two days of arrival, with the passenger locator form remaining mandatory, albeit “simplified”.
However, concerns have been raised by some scientists at the new plans, as they argue that reducing PCR testing may lead to difficulties in monitoring new virus variants.
Others believe that if testing is not free, “people won’t do it”.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting was quoted as saying that Boris Johnson was “declaring victory before the war is over, in an attempt to distract from the police knocking at his door”.
“Labour doesn’t want to see restrictions in place any longer than they need to be. The government should publish the evidence behind this decision, so the public can have faith that it is being made in the national interest.”
This comes as the UK continues to witness a downward trend in COVID-19 cases and deaths throughout February.
34,377 new cases have been recorded over the last 24 hours in the UK, along with 128 confirmed deaths from the virus. This is down just over 10,000 cases from the day before, and more than 25% lower than last Saturday's figures.