Covid isolation to be scrapped in England by end of February

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the falling number of cases meant the restriction could be scrapped four weeks earlier than planned

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The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid-19 test in England will be scrapped later this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, he said the rule requiring people to avoid others for a week if they have the virus will be done away with before March.

The Covid curb had initially been due to expire on March 24, but Mr Johnson said the “encouraging” infection figures means the restriction could end one month early.

“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,” he told MPs.

Mr Johnson said he would announce further details about his “Live with Covid” strategy when politicians return from recess on February 21.

In January, the UK government reduced the self-isolation period in England from seven to five days. People are allowed to leave their place of isolation after five full days, providing they test negative on days five and six.

Mr Johnson indicated that all remaining coronavirus restrictions would come to an end before the end of the month.

Face coverings are still required in health and care settings, including hospitals, doctors’ clinics and pharmacies.

In some circumstances, pupils and staff wear masks in communal school areas. This practice is not compulsory.

MPs from Mr Johnson’s Conservative party rebelled against the government’s tightening of restrictions late last year.

There were 11,471 patients in hospital in England with Covid-19 on February 8, National Health Service figures show.

This is down by 11 per cent on the previous week but is higher than mid-December.

A total of 385 patients were in mechanical ventilator beds, the lowest number since last July.

Covid-19 cases in England currently average at about 64,000 a day. This figure is the lowest since before Christmas, but includes only people who have reported a positive test result, and does not reflect the prevalence of the virus in the whole population.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the UK was “past the point” where vaccinating young, healthy children against Covid-19 will do any good.

Experts from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the British government, are expected to present their decision on the matter shortly.

Prof Hunter told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that infection rates in children are “falling really quickly at the moment”.

“So I think, in many ways, we’re past the point where vaccines are actually going to make much difference,” he said.

He said shots were given to older children to mitigate disruption to their schooling.

“We haven’t seen that vaccines have actually done a huge amount to stop these interruptions, so I think the benefits are marginal, and it’s probably too late because most kids have already had Omicron,” he said.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 9:18 AM