The Government is drawing up plans to repeal emergency coronavirus laws including the legal requirement to self-isolate when testing positive for COVID-19. However, before you get too excited, this would be replaced by official guidance which encourages people to behave in certain ways. This means while the legal penalty may be gone, the tyranny of the risk-averse insurance companies, trade unions and public officials may well remain. Also, to further dampen the excitement, it won’t happen for weeks or even months, even though the virus is clearly no longer causing a public health crisis. And in the meantime the mask mandate is set to stay beyond January 26th. The Telegraph has the story.
The Telegraph understands Boris Johnson wants to permanently repeal emergency coronavirus laws which have governed how the public can live for almost two years.
Instead, official guidance would remain in place which encourages people to behave in certain ways, but would not result in fines or legal punishment if ignored.
The plans will be worked up over the coming weeks, with an announcement being penned in as early as the spring – although no final decisions have been taken.
It would also mean there would be no legal requirement to isolate after contact with someone who has Covid or to wear face masks in certain settings.
A senior Government source told the Telegraph: “Lots of legal requirements were put in place during the pandemic. As we come into a stage where things are more manageable and those legal restrictions may no longer be necessary, we will look to remove them promptly from the statute book. The Prime Minister is obviously determined to get back to normal as soon as we can.”
The move comes as hope grows that this winter’s Covid surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant is easing, with daily case numbers continuing to fall. …
Downing Street is looking at three different drives to ease pandemic restrictions, some short-term and some long-term.
The so-called Plan B restrictions are expected to be largely lifted on January 26th, the review date that the Prime Minister set when he imposed them last month.
That means that the legal requirement for Covid passports – proof of full vaccination or a negative test – to be shown before entering large crowd venues is set to be dropped.
So too is guidance that urges people to work from home. However, a requirement to wear face masks on public transport, in shops and in other settings is likely to stay beyond January 26th.
A second drive is easing restrictions on travel. The need to take a lateral flow test on the second day after arriving into the U.K. is expected to drop.
A third drive is longer-term changes, with Government ministers believing the U.K. will move out of the pandemic and into a phase where Covid continues circulating but less frequently.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet has made clear that an approach of “learning to live with Covid” must be adopted, given scientists say the virus will never disappear completely.
Supporters of the move compare it to the approach for other viruses – such as flu – in which people are encouraged to behave a certain way but not legally compelled to do so.
Depressingly, however glacial and disappointing the Government’s plans are, they will almost certainly be better than Labour’s.
Labour announced its alternative roadmap for Britain to “learn to live well with Covid” on Sunday, as the party accused the Government of having “an empty slogan with no plan”.
Launching a 10-point plan, Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, said Labour would build up “sovereign capability” to manufacture test kits in Britain and publish economic, wellbeing and equality impact assessments for different policies to tackle the virus.
“We’re not out of the woods with COVID-19,” he said. “The virus will change and adapt and we need to learn to live well with it.
“For the Government, living with Covid is just an empty slogan with no plan. For some of the fanatics on the Conservative back benches, living with Covid means letting the virus rip. Both positions are highly irresponsible.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has called on Nicola Sturgeon to scrap most coronavirus restrictions, with the exception of face coverings, as data show that Scotland is “past the peak of Omicron”. The Telegraph has more.