Boris Johnson has announced that the plans to abolish all restrictions, including the rule to self-isolate, may be abolished a month early, sooner than the expected 24th March deadline. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes comments on the PM’s decision and what this means for England.
Currently, the rules state that you are required to self-isolate for at least five full days after receiving a positive COVID-19 test. The Prime Minister announced that these restrictions would be lifted on 24th March 2022. However, Boris Johnson told MPs on Thursday that, if the current ‘positive trends in the data’ continue, these last domestic rules could be lifted a whole month early.
These restrictions will be replaced with guidance, including that you should stay home from work if you test positive for COVID.
Since the end of January, the daily COVID cases have been decreasing, along with the number of deaths. However, cases are still high, with approximately one in twenty people testing positive for COVID in the week up to 5th February, according to the Office for National Statistics. This was up slightly from the previous week.
Rules surrounding travel were already relaxed yesterday, with fully-vaccinated returning travellers no longer required to self-isolate or test, and unvaccinated people only having to take test. Passenger locator forms still remain.
The lifting of restrictions breaks trends with other areas of the UK
When asked whether remaining rules would be removed by the end of the month, Mr. Johnson said the government would ‘make a decision when we get to that stage.’
The PM told MPs that he planned to return after parliamentary recess, which runs from the 10th to the 21st, with “the government’s strategy for living with COVID.”
The lifting of restrictions breaks trends with other areas of the UK. Scotland plan to extend their existing restrictions until September 24th: people are required to wear face coverings, and vaccine passports are still needed in some settings. These restrictions had originally been expected to be removed by the end of the month.
There has been apprehension from many, as infection rates are still high and it is unclear what the impact of lifting these restrictions will have on the spread of the virus. Disability charities, such as Scope, have expressed concern that people in high-risk situations will become very anxious.
The PM has been criticised by the Opposition
Dr Simon Clarke, a University of Reading microbiologist, has described the move as either “very brave or very stupid- but nobody knows for sure what the result will be.”
Furthermore, the PM has been criticised by the Opposition. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, has described the announcement as “throwaway remarks designed to dig him out of a political hole.” He is referencing the recent criticism of alleged parties held at 10 Downing Street during lockdown.
Only time will tell whether there is enough data to justify the lifting of restrictions. Nevertheless, England is fast approaching a stage where COVID will be treated like other respiratory illnesses.
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