UK prime minister Boris Johnson has set out plans for “living with covid”, including the scrapping of self-isolation when testing positive.
Addressing the House of Commons, Johnson said that all remaining domestic restrictions in law will be removed from Thursday while he continued to encourage safer behaviour through public health advice, similar to methods established for other infectious illnesses.
There will no longer be a legal obligation to self-isolate once testing positive, pending parliamentary approval, however, the advice to stay home for five days will still apply.
Those who are a fully vaccinated close contact will no longer need to test daily for seven days, while the unvaccinated will no longer be required to self isolate.
The provision of self-isolation support payments will also end from March 24. Statutory sick pay and employment support allowance can still be claimed until then.
Routine contract tracing, self-isolation payments and the legal obligation to tell employers about the requirement to isolate will also end from Thursday.
From April 1, free universal testing will end for the general public, with Johnson stating that the financial budget for testing needed to be scaled back and will now be prioritising the most vulnerable.
The government is set to update its guidance for “living with covid” in April, from which time the public is asked to be careful and considerate of others.
“The pandemic is not over…”
In a public letter published to the government site, Johnson said: “When the pandemic began, we had little knowledge of this virus and none about the vaccines and treatments we have today. So there was no option but to use government regulations to protect our NHS and save lives.
“But those restrictions on our liberties have brought grave costs to our economy, our society and the chances of our children. So from the outset, we were clear that we must chart a course back towards normality as rapidly as possible, by developing the vaccines and treatments that could gradually replace those restrictions.
“And as a result of possibly the greatest national effort in our peacetime history, that is exactly what we have done.”
He reminded the public that, despite the dropping of restrictions, the “pandemic is not over”.
The UK retained one of the most open societies in Europe over the past two years and has now reportedly passed the peak of the omicron wave, as cases and hospitalisations in England continue to fall. It is now that Johnson has decided to make a transition back to “normality” while continuing to analyse any resurgence or new variant.