Self-isolation laws and free coronavirus tests are due to be curbed in England as part of Boris Johnson’s new “Living with Covid” plan.
TheMirror reported that the Prime Minister went ahead with unveiling the Government’s new plan, despite Buckingham Palace confirming that the Queen has tested positive for Covid-19.
The PM said: “Today will mark a moment of pride after one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history as we begin to learn to live with Covid.
“It would not be possible without the efforts of so many – the NHS who delivered the lifesaving vaccine rollout at phenomenal speed, our world-leading scientists and experts, and the general public for their commitment to protecting themselves and their loved ones.
“The pandemic is not over but thanks to the incredible vaccine rollout we are now one step closer towards a return to normality and finally giving people back their freedoms while continuing to protect ourselves and others.”
According to The Mirror, Sunday’s figures showed another 25,696 cases and 74 deaths.
However, the Prime Minister’s advisers have warned of the consequences of lifting restrictions, and have suggested the move will trigger a fresh surge.
But Downing Street insisted “the phenomenal success of the vaccine program and our improved understanding of the virus” meant “we can now move away from government intervention towards personal responsibility”.
The latest statistics show that some 91.4% of over-12s have received a first jab, 85% a second and 66.1% a third or booster dose.
Monday morning will see cabinet ministers come together to authorize the plan, with Johnson to present it in the Commons later that day, alongside a press conference.
“I’m not saying that we should throw caution to the winds, but now is the moment for everybody to get their confidence back,” Mr Johnson told BBC1’s Sunday Morning programme.
“We’ve reached a stage where we think you can shift the balance away from state mandate, away from banning certain courses of action – compelling certain courses of action – in favor of encouraging personal responsibility.”
On the subject of axing free tests, he added: “I think we need resilience but …. on testing, we don’t need to keep spending at a rate of £2billion pounds a month, which is what we were doing in January.”
In a response, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting told Sky News: “It’s a bit like being 2-1 up with 10 minutes left to play and subbing your best defender.
“We are not out of the woods yet on Covid.”
The Labor frontbencher accused the PM of using the new plan as a way of trying to distract attention from the police probe into the Downing Street parties, and added: “It seems like Boris Johnson is keen to declare victory before the war is over in the hope that he gets some headlines about ‘victory day on Covid’ instead of police officers asking questions about actions in No10.”
Government advisers SAGE last week warned that cases could rise “rapidly” as mandatory quarantine ends and free tests are axed, and that transmission could rise by between 25% to 80% if people “return to pre-pandemic behaviors and no mitigations”.
NHS Confederation chairman Lord Adebowale said: “Learning to ‘live with Covid’ doesn’t mean abandoning all precautions.
“I’m very concerned and so is the NHS Confederation and others.”
He added: “We don’t know that the virus is in a benign state, it could mutate and we could be facing a more dangerous virus, so we need to be monitoring.
“One of the ways we monitor is through testing – if testing isn’t free people won’t test, especially the poor.”
Professor Danny Altmann, of Imperial College London, said: “We will be flying blind.
“Data collection is the only trick up our sleeve to know about new variants coming round the corner.”
Government minister James Cleverly said councils will take on responsibility for Covid-19 response once restrictions are relaxed.
Senior statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter said some form of the Office for National Statistics’ coronavirus study should remain in place. The Cambridge University professor, who is a non-executive director for the ONS and chairman of the advisory board for the Covid Infection Survey, said: “It has been absolutely so important as we have gone along.”
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