While the Prime Minister hailed the end of restrictions, he and other British officials made clear that the pandemic was far from over.
“Today is not the day we declare victory over Covid, because this virus will not go away. But it is the day when all the efforts of the past two years have finally enabled us to protect ourselves while having our freedoms fully restored,” Johnson said, adding later on Monday that it represented a “moment.” Pride for our nation and a source of hope for all that we can achieve in the years ahead.”
Johnson opened his earlier statement wishing the Queen a speedy recovery from Covid-19. He said it was “a reminder that this virus has not gone away,” but said it was time “to move from government restrictions to personal responsibility.”
Buckingham Palace announced on Sunday that the 95-year-old queen – who is celebrating her 70th birthday to the throne – is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms but expects to continue light duties in Windsor over the next week.
The restrictions will be gradually removed
Ending restrictions in England will be phased in, subject to parliamentary approval.
The legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 will expire on February 24, although government advice that people should be isolated after testing positive will remain.
Vaccinated contacts of those who test positive will not be required to screen for seven days and the isolation of unvaccinated contacts will not be required by law. Workers will also not be required to tell their employers if they test positive.
People who have come into contact with someone who tested positive will not be tracked.
As a result of the changes, the government will remove some of the financial support that was offered to those who cannot work from home if they test positive from March 24.
As of April 1, the government will no longer offer free rapid tests to the public, although it has not specified the cost of a package of seven tests.
From this point on, testing will be more targeted — in settings such as hospitals, care homes and other places where vulnerable people may come into contact with the virus.
Johnson also said that at this point the government would no longer require people to carry a Covid status certificate locally in England. Many lawmakers from the prime minister’s Conservative Party have been deeply uncomfortable with the idea of vaccine passports.
Vaccinations and antiviral treatments
On Monday, the government made clear that there was no scientific evidence that Covid-19 had shifted from pandemic to endemic, nor that any new surges would be less severe. So some protection measures will still apply.
“It is only because immunity levels are so high and deaths are now, if any, below the level you would normally expect at this time of year that we can lift those restrictions,” Johnson said.
“And because we know that Omicron is less dangerous, the Omicron test on the massive scale that we’ve been doing is now much less valuable in preventing serious disease,” he added.
The central government will continue its domestic surveillance system that tracks the spread of the virus and the sequence that may infect any new variants. The infection survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics will continue.
The laboratory infrastructure developed during the pandemic to test and monitor new variants will remain in place if the virus spreads again, and rapid lateral flow tests will also be stored.
The government will continue its vaccination program and will update its advice on vaccinations if scientific evidence indicates that they will be effective in the future.
Government agencies will continue to purchase antiviral treatments to help protect at-risk Covid-19 patients.
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