Lockdowns and covid restrictions have bought “great costs” to our society and to the prospects of our children, Boris Johnson has admitted. But he insisted the UK had “passed the peak of the Omicron wave” – making it possible to “complete that transition back to normality”.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, he admitted: “Today is not the day we can declare victory over Covid, because the virus is not going away.” But he insisted this was the day “we can restore our liberties in full”. And he said it could be “a source of pride for our nation”.
However, Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, told the press conference that more than one in 25 people have the Omicron variant of Covid right now – and said scientists expect more new variations to emerge in future.
READ MORE: What Boris Johnson told the House of Commons about the end of Covid rules
Mr Johnson confirmed that Covid tests would no longer be available for free – but he said it would be possible to buy them if people want one.
He confirmed there would no longer be a legal requirement to stay at home if people test positive for Covid from Thursday.
He said death levels in the UK are actually below the normal level for this time of year.
In changes announced today:
- The remaining domestic restrictions in England will be removed. The legal requirement to self-isolate ends. Until April 1, we still advise people who test positive to stay at home. Adults and children who test positive are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
- From April, the Government will update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and consider of others, similar to advice on other infectious diseases. This will align with testing changes.
- Self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
- Routine contact tracing ends, including venue check-ins on the NHS COVID-19 app.
- Fully vaccinated adults and those aged under 18 who are close contacts are no longer advised to test daily for seven days and the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate will be removed.
And universal free provision of tests will end . From the start of April, the government will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public.
Limited symptomatic testing will be available for a small number of at-risk groups and we will set out further details on which groups will be eligible shortly. Free symptomatic testing will also remain available to social care staff.
The government argues free tests could not continue at their current rate due to the cost of £2 billion a month.
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