Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron
The United Kingdom is drawing up plans under which people will not be legally bound to self-isolate after catching Covid-19, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to permanently revoke emergency coronavirus laws as Britain's Covid-19 cases continue to fall, the report said, adding official guidance would remain but would not result in fines or legal punishment if ignored.
The plans will be worked up over the coming weeks, with an announcement expected as early as the spring, the report said.
Last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Covid-19 self-isolation in England will be cut to five days from seven if someone tests negative twice.
Plan B coronavirus restrictions are also likely to be dropped in England on January 26 because of the “very promising data” on the virus, the Conservative Party chairman has said.
Oliver Dowden said it was encouraging to see the fall in infection rates and hospital admission numbers and hinted that the set of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the Omicron variant may not be extended into next month.
“I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can,” Mr Dowden told Sky News.
“It has always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.”
He went on to say authorities had been presented with “very promising data, whether that’s in relation to infections or hospitalisations”.
He said the downwards trajectory was due to 60 per cent of England’s population having received vaccine boosters. Nine in 10 people over the age of 50 have had three vaccine doses.
“That gives us pause for hope and optimism that we may be emerging from the worst of Omicron. So it’s good news but it’s thanks to all that hard work that it is happening,” he said.
“The signs are encouraging but clearly we will wait to see the data ahead of that final decision.
“It all seems to be heading in the right direction, particularly, crucially, in relation to hospitalisations, which seem to be plateauing.”
Government ministers will study scientific data before a decision is made on whether to extend Plan B, drop it or partially keep it in place is announced on January 26.
Plan B includes mandatory face masks for most public indoor settings, working from home orders and vaccination certificates for people attending nightclubs. The package was introduced in December in response to the rise in Covid cases spurred by the Omicron variant.
Mr Dowden’s comments come after the UK Health Security Agency said the number of infections in London, south-eastern and eastern England was flattening.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the agency’s chief medical adviser, also said there had been a “slowdown” in Covid hospital admissions. However, she said cases were still relatively high, with one in 15 people in England infected and one in 20 elsewhere in the UK.
On Friday England’s R number was put between 1.1 and 1.5 — a slightly wider range than the previous week’s calculation of 1.2 to 1.5.
The figure is an estimation of how many people on average are infected by each Covid case. If it is above 1 it indicates that the epidemic is growing rather than contracting.
From Monday, 16 and 17-year-olds will able to receive a Covid booster vaccine.
About 40,000 teenagers will be eligible for their top-up dose when the national booking service opens at the start of the week in the latest phase of the vaccine programme.
Previously, third doses were recommended only for clinically vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds who are most at risk from the coronavirus.
But recent data from the agency showed that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to bolster people’s immunity in order to prevent them from having a serious infection in response to Omicron. Data suggested a third vaccine dose significantly increases a young person’s protection against the highly transmissible variant.