LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — England will scrap the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 later this month if infection levels remain stable, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.
Johnson, dogged by revelations of apparent breaches of the COVID rules at Downing Street that have led to calls for him to quit, had earlier said he aimed to end the self-isolation rules on March 24.
But addressing lawmakers before parliament goes into recess on Thursday until February 21, he said he would bring the change forward by a month, to cheers from his fellow Conservative MPs.
“It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with COVID,” Johnson told parliament.
“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions — including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive — a full month early.”
England lifted almost all coronavirus restrictions in late January that had been reimposed in early December to tackle the Omicron variant, with masks no longer required in enclosed places and vaccine passports shelved.
The need for fully vaccinated travellers to test for COVID-19 before or after arriving in the UK will end later this week.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases has fallen sharply since the new year. Although still at high levels, the figures have kept falling in the weeks following the easing of the measures.
The government announced 66,183 new infections on Tuesday, as well as 314 new deaths from the virus, taking the country’s total toll to nearly 159,000 — one of the highest in Europe.
The UK government only has responsibility for health policy in England, with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their own rules.