While the Prime Minister welcomed the end of restrictions, he and other British officials made it clear that the pandemic was not over.
Johnson opened his statement by wishing the Queen a speedy recovery from Covid-19. He said it was “a reminder that this virus has not gone away”, but said it was time to “move from government restrictions to personal responsibility”.
The 95-year-old sovereign – who is celebrating 70 years on the throne – is experiencing mild symptoms of a cold but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week, Buckingham Palace announced on Sunday.
Restrictions to be phased out
The ending of restrictions in England will be in phases and is subject to the approval of parliament.
The legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 will end on February 24, although government advice that people should self-isolate after testing positive will stand.
Vaccinated contacts of those who tested positive will no longer be required to test for seven days and unvaccinated contacts will not be legally required to self-isolate. Workers will also no longer be required to tell their employers if they have tested positive.
People who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive will no longer be traced.
As a result of these changes, the government will remove some of the financial support that was offered to those who cannot work from home if they test positive from March 24.
And from April 1, the government will no longer provide free rapid tests to the public, although it did not say how much a pack of seven tests would cost.
From then on, testing will be much more targeted – in settings such as hospitals, care homes and other settings where vulnerable people may come into contact with the virus.
Johnson also said that at this stage the government would no longer require people to carry national Covid status certification in England. Many lawmakers in the Prime Minister’s Conservative Party had been deeply uncomfortable with the idea of vaccine passports.
Vaccinations, antiviral treatments
The government made it clear on Monday that there is no scientific evidence that Covid-19 has gone from pandemic to endemic, nor that any further mutations will be less severe. Therefore, some safeguards will remain in place.
The central government will pursue a nationwide surveillance system that tracks the spread of the virus and sequencing that could detect any new variants. The Office for National Statistics survey of infections will continue.
Laboratory infrastructure developed during the pandemic to test and monitor new variants will remain in place if the virus spreads again, and rapid lateral flow tests will also be stockpiled.
The government will continue its vaccination program and update its advice on vaccinations if scientific evidence suggests it would be effective in the future.
Government agencies will continue to procure antiviral treatments to help protect vulnerable patients from Covid-19.