• Staff Writers

UK to dump remaining COVID-19 restrictions


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the government will remove all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England and cut access to free tests.


Some have responded to Johnson's "living with COVID" plan as premature and exposing the country to new viral variants but the government says it has provided more testing than most other countries and must now curb the cost.


As Hong Kong builds isolation units and Europe retains distancing and vaccine rules, Johnson is moving to repeal any pandemic requirements that impinge on personal freedoms, saying it is time the public took responsibility.


He will lean even more on the roll-out of booster vaccines, with the government offering extra booster doses to the most vulnerable, as well as other pharmaceuticals interventions such as antiviral treatments. Speaking in the Commons on Monday, the Prime Minister said:

"Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer," Johnson told parliament.
"So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms."

From February 24:

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test will end. Adults and children who test positive will be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.

  • Workers will not be legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate

  • Self-isolation support payments will end

  • Routine contact-tracing will end

  • Fully vaccinated close contacts of positive cases and under 18s will no longer have to take a test for seven days

  • Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated will no longer be legally required to self isolate

From April 1:

  • People with COVID-19 symptoms will be encouraged simply to exercise personal responsibility in same way as those with flu would be encouraged to be considerate of others

TESTING

From February 21:

  • The government is immediately removing the requirement for staff and children in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing

From April 1:

  • Free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public will end

  • Limited symptomatic testing will remain available for a small number of at-risk groups as well as for social care staff

  • The government is working with retailers to ensure everyone who wants to can buy a test

CERTIFICATION


From April 1, the government will no longer recommend the use of voluntary COVID-19 status certification


VACCINES


  • A (northern hemisphere) spring booster vaccine will be offered to over 75s, care home residents and over 12s who are immunosuppressed

  • The vaccine task force will continue to ensure the UK has access to effective vaccines as they are developed

NEW VARIANTS

The Office for National Statistics survey will be maintained to allow to continue tracking the virus with regional and age breakdowns to spot surges