All remaining COVID restrictions lifted in England today
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it's time to move from "government restrictions to personal responsibility".
All remaining restrictions have been lifted in England today as part of the government’s “living with COVID plan”.
After almost two years living amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that all remaining restrictions are to come to an end and unveiled the government’s plan for “living with COVID” to MPs in the House of Commons.
He said it’s in bid to move from “government restrictions to personal responsibility”.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference on Monday evening, Mr Johnson said “today is not the day we can declare victory over COVID”, but admitted that the nation had passed the peak of Omicron, with falling cases and hospital admissions.
He described the pandemic as “two of the darkestt years in our peacetime history”, but now is the country can complete the “transition back towards normality”
Read more: All the changes announced in England’s ‘living with COVID’ plan
What has changed?
The government already dropped its guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing on 22 February.
- The legal requirement to self-isolate for those who test positive has ended.
- Vaccinated contacts of positive cases will no longer be asked to test for seven days.
- There will no longer be a legal requirement for close contacts who are not vaccinated to self-isolate.
- Contact tracing and venue check-ins on the COVID-19 app has also ended.
- The £500 self-isolation support payment for people on low incomes who test positive for COVID will no longer be available.
- COVID provisions for increased statutory sick pay will apply for a further month.
It is also expected today that the government will issue and update wider guidance on workplace safety that had been changed for COVID.
What else is due to change soon?
From 1 April:
- Free universal testing for symptomatic and asymtomatic people will be scrapped and will instead be targeted at the most vulnerable.
- The use of voluntarily COVID status certification will also no longer be recommended.
- Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.
- People with COVID symptoms will be asked to exercise “personal responsibility” when deciding whether to stay at home.
Announcing the lifting of restrictions, the Prime Minister said: “Because of the efforts we have made as a country over the past two years, we can now deal with it in a very different way, moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility, so we protect ourselves without losing our abilities and maintaining our contingent capabilities so we can respond rapidly to any new variant.”
Mr Johnson added that it is “only because levels of immunity are so high” that the remaining restrictions can be lifted.
He said “vaccines and treatments” must now been seen as “our first line of defence”.
The government says ministers and scientific experts will continue to “track the virus in granular detail”, and that it remains “ready to respond” if a new variant emerges and places unsustainable pressure on the NHS, through surveillance systems and contingency measures such as increased testing capacity or vaccine programmes.
The government’s plan for “living with COVID” has drawn criticism from opposition and a growing number of medical professionals for being “premature” and “not based on current evidence” or “guided by data”.