Covid isolation and free testing to be scrapped, with spring vaccine booster campaign also confirmed
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will no longer need to self-isolate from Thursday.
The Prime Minister’s new plan for “living with Covid” is also set to see free universal testing for the disease end from April, while the Health Secretary has confirmed a spring booster vaccine campaign.
Under the proposals unveiled by Boris Johnson, which are yet to be formally approved by Parliament, those who test positive for Covid-19 will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law.
Routine contact tracing will also end on Thursday, as will self-isolation payments and the legal obligation for individuals to tell their employers about their requirement to isolate.
Changes to sick pay rules and employment support introduced to help workers through earlier stages of the pandemic are expected to end on March 24.
Johnson told MPs it was time to “move from Government restrictions to personal responsibility”, with “sufficient levels of immunity to complete the transition” from laws to relying on vaccines and treatments.
“It is time that we got our confidence back. We don’t need laws to compel people to be considerate to others. We can rely on that sense of responsibility towards one another,” He added.
“So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms.”
While the testing regime is set to be scaled back, some screening is due to stay in place, such as measures to detect asymptomatic cases.
But both education and business leaders have called for more clarity on the latest moves.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, warned Covid has not yet been “defeated” and remains “a presence in schools”.
And Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director urged ministers to strike a balance between “confidence building and cost-cutting”.
He added: “Mass lateral flow testing has kept our economy open and firms continue to believe the economic benefits far outweigh the costs.”
A fresh round of Covid-19 vaccines is set to be rolled out in the Spring.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced people aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed and those living in care homes will all be offered a top up jab in the coming months.
Further details are still to be confirmed, but it is expected that appointments will be available from about six months after a person’s most recent dose.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to follow England with similar plans after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published UK-wide advice recommending the measure.
“[The vaccination rollout] has saved countless lives, reduced pressure on the NHS and is allowing us to learn to live with the virus,” said Javid.
“All four parts of the UK intend to follow the JCVI’s advice.
“We know immunity to Covid-19 begins to wane over time.
“That’s why we’re offering a spring booster to those people at higher risk of serious Covid-19 to make sure they maintain a high level of protection.
“It’s important that everyone gets their top-up jabs as soon as they’re eligible.
“The JCVI will keep under review whether the booster programme should be extended to further at-risk groups.”