Legal isolation for Covid to end from Thursday, Boris Johnson says
People who test positive for coronavirus will no longer be legally required to isolate from Thursday, and free universal testing will end in April under Boris Johnson’s plan for “living with Covid”.
The Prime Minister detailed the strategy for England to the Commons late on Monday afternoon after a Cabinet disagreement thought to centre on funding for future surveillance of the virus.
Those who receive a positive Covid-19 test will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law under the plans subject to parliamentary approval.
Addressing the Commons just after 4.30pm he said: "Covid will not just disappear so those who would wait for it to end before lifting restrictions would be waiting a very long time.
"It is time we got our confidence back... We can rely on a sense of responsibility towards one another... Let us learn to live with this virus."
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.
Mr Johnson also told MPs that changes to statutory sick pay and employment support allowance designed to help people through the coronavirus pandemic will end on March 24.
People aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed and those living in care homes will be offered another Covid-19 booster vaccine this spring under the plans.
But free universal testing will be massively scaled back from April 1 and will instead be focused on the most vulnerable, with the UK Health Security Agency set to determine the details, while a degree of asymptomatic testing will continue in the most risky settings such as in social care.
But the Department of Health and Social Care will receive no extra money to deliver the testing.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the plan as a "Half-baked announcement from a government characterised by chaos and not a plan," having earlier compared it to "subbing your best defender off" when there is 10 minutes left and you're 2-1 up.
In addition, nurseries and childminders will no longer have to report Covid-19 cases or outbreaks to Ofsted.
The Department for Education says it has decided to end the requirement for childcare providers to tell inspectors about confirmed virus cases in their settings from today.
The Cabinet was due to sign off on the plan on Monday morning, but the meeting was pushed back to the afternoon at the last minute, with the delay understood to centre on Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s demands over how elements would be funded.
Ministers including Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke had already arrived in No 10 before the postponement.
The chaos surrounding the policy, which should help shore up Mr Johnson’s support on the Tory backbenches by ending the remaining legal restrictions in a nation that has lived under measures for nearly two years, came as the PM’s authority was undermined by the partygate scandal.
But No 10 ultimately said the Cabinet gave the strategy its “unanimous backing” after a virtual meeting in the afternoon.