Legal requirement for Covid isolation to be scrapped in move towards plan to live with virus

The second area of changes in the strategy for living with Covid, still being developed by government officials, includes the long-term approach for free testing, Covid vaccinations, travel rules and all other major areas of Covid regulations.

The universal provision of free tests is expected to be scaled back, given that it costs the Treasury billions a year, a cost covered by all taxpayers. There is expected to be an annual Covid vaccination programe, but its specifics – including whether children will be included, and if so down to what age – remain to be decided.

Requirements for the unvaccinated to self-isolate after entering England from overseas will be reviewed, as will the need for every person arriving from abroad to fill out a passenger locator form.

The review will also look at the Covid data dashboard, considering whether case, death and hospitalisation figures should be released every day.

Mr Johnson is expected to seek approval for the finalised plans on Monday Feb 21, the first day after the parliamentary recess, which begins on Thursday.

The legal self-isolation requirement is expected to end that week, while the exact timing of other changes remains to be seen.
“We’ve talked about how we will need to manage living with coronavirus as we emerge from this pandemic,” said Mr Johnson’s official spokesman. “We are entering into that phase of endemicity, and it’s only right that we adjust accordingly.”

Lord Frost, who quit the Cabinet in December in part due to Covid restrictions, said the move was “extremely welcome” and added: “I hope the Government will also make clear we will not go down the road of coercive lockdowns ever again.”

Steve Baker, the Tory MP and deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said: “I welcome this announcement.

“But we are not out of the woods until the Public Health Act has been reformed, we have new rules for better modelling, competitive, multi-disciplinary expert advice and wellbeing-based cost-benefit analysis covering the costs of lockdowns and restrictions.”

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said: “We are the freest country in Europe thanks to the strong defences we have built. We’re learning to live with Covid.”

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