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What Covid restrictions are still to be removed in England? 

  • People self-isolating with Covid still have to self-isolate for 10 days.
  • That isolation can be ended after five days, but only if they pass LFTs on days five and six and don’t have a temperature
  • Masks are still needed in medical and care units including hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies
  • Councils have the power to recommend face coverings in school communal areas. 
  • Venues can choose to use the NHS Covid Pass voluntarily 
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Boris Johnson was today warned not to scrap Covid rules to ‘get out of a hole’ as he signalled all restrictions can go from the end of this month.

The PM made the dramatic announcement – which includes ending the legal requirement for those who test positive to self-isolate – at the start of PMQs in the Commons.

Mr Johnson said he would lay out the full strategy after the half-term recess on February 21, but as long as ‘encouraging’ trends continue restrictions can go in England four weeks earlier than the current expiry date of March 24. 

The step was greeted with roars in the chamber, with many Tories having been pushing for the government to draw a line under the pandemic.

But it is far from clear that Scotland and Wales will follow Mr Johnson’s lead – as the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s Mark Drakeford have been far more cautious. 

Today Scottish Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane demanded Ms Sturgeon to lay out her plan for life after Covid soon.

‘The SNP need to outline a timetable for ending self-isolation when they publish their plan on February 22 for how Scotland returns to normal,’ he said.

Keir Starmer insisted he is holding back on whether the restrictions should be eased, but shadow health minister Justin Madders made clear the party needs convincing that the step is ‘a result of scientific advice and not based on protecting his political position’.

Scientists also voiced ‘surprise’ and said the government could be making a ‘profound mistake’ by giving up tools to track the virus.   

Covid cases have been on a downward trajectory after the Omicron surge and deaths have remained far below the fears of many experts.

Daily cases were 68,214 this evening, down from 88,085 the same day last week. 

The Plan B requirements for people to work from home where possible was dropped last month, along with most face mask rules and compulsory Covid passes.   

The country has been subject to virtually unprecedented peacetime restrictions since early 2020. 

Downing Street stressed that people with infectious diseases should not go to workplaces.

But the next logical step for government could be axing free Covid testing – which has been costing billions of pounds.  

Travel rules could also stay in place on people coming to the UK.   

The news could give Mr Johnson a much-needed boost as he battles to cling on amid damaging Partygate allegations. 

‘Mr Speaker I can tell the house today, that it is my intention to return on the first day after the half term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid,’ Mr Johnson told MPs.

‘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.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: ‘We are the freest country in Europe thanks to the strong defences we have built. We’re learning to live with COVID.’ 

Keir Starmer’s spokesman refused to say whether he backed the end of restrictions, insisting he only knew what the premier said at the start of PMQs.  

Lord Frost, who quit Cabinet partly in protest at draconian curbs, was among the senior Tories praising the move.

‘The PM’s plan to end all Covid restrictions a month early is the right thing to do & is extremely welcome. I hope the government will also make clear we will not go down the road of coercive lockdowns ever again,’ he tweeted.   

In more drama at Westminster today:

  • A health minister is facing calls to resign after continuing with a meeting with bereaved parents despite being informed she had tested positive; 
  • A new photograph has emerged of Mr Johnson hosting a Downing Street quiz via zoom during lockdown, with a bottle of bubbly visible;
  • There are signs that Brits are becoming increasingly confident the pandemic is ending with holiday companies reporting a spike in bookings;  
  • Keir Starmer tackled the PM over fraud and energy bills but ignored the raging row over Mr Johnson’s Jimmy Savile ‘slur’ from last week. 
The PM made the dramatic announcement - including self-isolation for those who test positive - at the start of PMQs in the Commons

The PM made the dramatic announcement - including self-isolation for those who test positive - at the start of PMQs in the Commons

The PM made the dramatic announcement – including self-isolation for those who test positive – at the start of PMQs in the Commons

Lord Frost was among the Tories hailing the announcement from Mr Johnson today

Lord Frost was among the Tories hailing the announcement from Mr Johnson today

Lord Frost was among the Tories hailing the announcement from Mr Johnson today

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the announcement from the PM showed the UK is the 'freest country in Europe'

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the announcement from the PM showed the UK is the 'freest country in Europe'

Justin Madders

Justin Madders

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the announcement from the PM showed the UK is the ‘freest country in Europe’ 

Covid death figures ‘overblowing’ real toll

Official’ Covid deaths are over-blowing the daily toll by two-fifths, Government data suggests amid calls for the daily updates to be scrapped under the No10’s plan to live with the virus.

Latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency — which count deaths as those within 28 days of a positive test — show 1,663 fatalities were registered in England and Wales during the week ending January 28.

But looking at the data by the number of death certificates mentioning the virus, however, shows there were only 1,385 logged.

And if the data is broken down to show where the virus was the underlying cause of death, only 986 were posted — 40 per cent below the official tally.

The rise of the milder Omicron strain has led to a similar pattern emerging in hospitals, where half of virus inpatients are not primarily needing treatment for the infection.

Critics have warned that the rise in so-called ‘incidental’ cases, driven by the sheer prevalence of Omicron, is skewing the Government’s daily coronavirus statistics.

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Will international travel rules also be axed next month?  

Remaining rules governing foreign travels could also be lifted next month, Downing Street suggested this afternoon.

From Friday fully-jabbed Britons will no longer have to take an LFT two days after getting back from their holiday, in a change introduced to help half-term breaks.

Grant Shapps used a Commons statement last month to also confirm vaccinated children aged 12-15 would be able to access digital Covid passports from February 3.  

Rules for arrivals who don;t have all their jabs were also eased so they no longer had to isolate.

This setup is due to be reviewed on March 25, but a spokesman for the PM today left the door open for them to be swept away earlier, along with things like passenger locator forms that have to be filled out at airports. 

‘The living with Covid strategy will address the future of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which is due for review by March 25, 2022,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters.

‘That covers the remaining non-domestic regulations on international travel, so that’s things like the passenger locator forms and tests for the unvaccinated.’

Asked if those rules would remain in place until the end of March, the spokesman said ‘we will obviously make a decision when we get to that stage’.

However, unjabbed Brits should probably not make plans too early. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has previously warned that many foreign countries popular with UK tourists are likely to require some form of proof of vaccination on entry, at least for the coming summer season. 

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An infection survey released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today showed Covid-19 infection levels have risen in most parts of the UK, with only Wales showing a clear week-on-week fall.

In England around one in 19 people in private households are estimated to have had the virus in the week to February 5, or 2.8 million people – up from one in 20, or 2.6 million people, in the week to January 29, though the ONS describes the trend as ‘uncertain’.

Northern Ireland saw infections continuing to increase week-on-week, from one in 15 people to one in 13 – the highest since records began – while in Scotland the estimate is up from one in 30 to one in 25.

In Wales, around one in 25 people is estimated to have had Covid-19 last week, down from one in 20 the previous week.

However, more up-to-date official Covid statistics last night showed cases and hospitalisations falling again.

Government dashboard data showed there were 66,183 new positive tests logged over the last 24 hours, down 41.1 per cent on the 112,458 recorded last week. 

It was the lowest daily infection figure on a Tuesday since December 14 — towards the start of the Omicron wave.

The number of people admitted to hospital with the virus also fell, dropping 12.8 per cent to 1,421 on February 3, the latest date data is available for.

But deaths increased for the first time in six days, increasing 43.4 per cent from 314 last week to 219. 

The number represents how many deaths were recorded in 24 hours — not the total that actually occurred. 

Covid deaths by day of occurrence have been dropping for more than a week, as the UK continue to emerge from the winter wave.

Downing Street said it would never recommend anyone go to work when they have an infectious disease.

Asked if the change would mean people could go to work if they had Covid, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘So there would be guidance, that would not be what we are recommending.

‘What we would simply be doing is removing the domestic regulations which relate to isolation.

‘But obviously in the same way that someone with flu, we wouldn’t recommend they go to work, we would never recommend anyone goes to work when they have an infectious disease.’

He added: ‘We’ve talked about how we will need to manage living with coronavirus as we emerge from this pandemic. We are entering into that phase of endemicity as I’ve talked about, and it’s only right that we adjust according.’

The spokesman said the announcement ‘shows that the hard work of the British people is paying off’.

‘This would represent an important step for this country as we move out of the pandemic,’ they said.

‘And it is thanks to the British people who stepped up when needed – both at the start of the vaccination programme and the booster programme over Christmas, we saw people come forward in huge numbers very quickly.

‘And it’s that level of protection that has meant that we are able to emerge much faster.

‘It is a boon both for the public – we are able to restore freedoms – but also to our hard-hit businesses, particularly hospitality, enabling our economy to grow further.

‘It shows that the hard work of the British people is paying off.’ 

The PM’s press secretary said businesses would be given a ‘wide range of guidance’ on how to treat employees following the removal of the Covid self-isolation requirement. 

The plan will also set out what arrangements will be in place for international travel, Downing Street said.

‘The living with Covid strategy will address the future of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which is due for review by March 25, 2022,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters.

‘That covers the remaining non-domestic regulations on international travel, so that’s things like the passenger locator forms and tests for the unvaccinated.’

Asked if those rules would remain in place until the end of March, the spokesman said ‘we will obviously make a decision when we get to that stage’.

A spokesman for Sir Keir said: ‘All Keir heard was the one sentence at the start of PMQs. We will be looking for a lot more detail before we comment on that.

‘We will judge it, as we always have, on the science. Let’s see what the plan says when it appears, rather than the Prime Minister’s comments in the chamber.’

Lockdown-sceptic Tories gave the announcement a broad welcome, but said they wanted to see the detail.

One MP said: ‘We have now protected everyone who wants a vaccination so this new strategy must mean turning the page and living with Covid.’

Former minister Steve Baker added: ‘I welcome this announcement but we are not out of the woods until the Public Health Act has been reformed, we have new rules for better modelling, competitive, multi-disciplinary expert advice and wellbeing-based cost-benefit analysis covering the costs of lockdowns and restrictions. There is much to do!’

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: ‘As they have repeatedly done throughout this pandemic, this government is preparing to make a serious public health decision for short term political expediency.

‘There will come a time when we need to live with coronavirus but dropping all precautions with no medical basis is foolhardy when the risk of new variants remains and long covid continues to cause shortages in vital public services.

‘Ministers must not play fast and loose with people’s health in an attempt to meet political demands.’ 

Stephen Griffin from the school of medicine at the University Leeds said: ‘In my view, the way in which this is being implemented is a profound mistake. Again.

‘Literally blinding ourselves by removing testing and isolation robs us of the most fundamental means of controlling the spread of this virus.’

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Everybody wants to get back to normal, but Covid risks haven’t disappeared. This is going too far, way too soon.’ 

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the PM’s statement was ‘quite a surprise’. 

Sturgeon faces calls to follow PM’s lead on axing Covid restrictions 

Nicola Sturgeon is today facing calls to follow Boris Johnson’s lead by axing the last Covid restrictions in the coming weeks.

It is far from clear that Scotland and Wales will follow the PM’s bold lead.

Both Ms Sturgeon and Labour’s Mark Drakeford have been far more cautious about removing curbs.

Ms Sturgeon is due to release her plan for living with Covid later this month. 

Scottish Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane called on her to give a clear timetable.

‘The Scottish Conservatives have made it clear that we want to see the progressive easing of Covid restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so,’ he said.

‘The SNP need to outline a timetable for ending self-isolation when they publish their plan on February 22 for how Scotland returns to normal.’ 

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‘At some point it is going to be the case that all remaining restrictions are dropped including the need to self-isolate, though I certainly didn’t expect that to happen this month,’ he said.

‘There are grounds for optimism. After a temporary stalling in the rate of decline in reported cases case numbers have once again started to fall. 

‘This recent decline has been most dramatic in children where in England reported case number in children aged 5 to 9 cases have almost halved in a week. 

‘Hospital admissions and ITU bed occupancy continue to fall and deaths are also now falling. However, there remains concern about the omicron variant known as BA.2 which does seem to be still increasing in the most recent data, albeit a little slower than previously.

‘The concern for me remains our more vulnerable people, especially those who for medical reasons may not have responded as well to vaccine as we would have wished. There needs to be robust procedures in place to ensure infections in this group are diagnosed early and antivirals are provided within hours of any positive result.’ 

Prof Hunter also argued that vaccinations for younger children should not happen because it is ‘past the point’ where they would make much difference.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I would lean against offering it to this age group for a number of reasons, particularly although you’ve said we’ve seen very high infection rates in children in recent weeks, they’re actually falling really quickly at the moment.

‘And we’re seeing fewer than half the cases in this age group even little more than a week ago, so I think in many ways we’re past the point where vaccines are actually going to make much difference.’ 

Ministers have been increasingly balancing the impact on the workforce from Covid absences against the need to stop the spread. 

Mr Javid last week performed a last-minute U-turn on the controversial ‘no jab, no job’ policy for health workers over fears it would leave hospitals short staffed. 

Up to 80,000 unjabbed workers faced being fired because of the rule, which would have meant they needed two doses by April 1 to keep their job. 

Meanwhile, there have been calls for the daily Covid updates to be scrapped as ‘official’ deaths are over-blowing the daily toll by two-fifths.

Latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency — which count deaths as those within 28 days of a positive test — show 1,663 fatalities were registered in England and Wales during the week ending January 28.

But looking at the data by the number of death certificates mentioning the virus, however, shows there were only 1,385 logged.

And if the data is broken down to show where the virus was the underlying cause of death, only 986 were posted — 40 per cent below the official tally.

The rise of the milder Omicron strain has led to a similar pattern emerging in hospitals, where half of virus inpatients are not primarily needing treatment for the infection.

Critics have warned that the rise in so-called ‘incidental’ cases, driven by the sheer prevalence of Omicron, is skewing the Government’s daily coronavirus statistics.

Dame Irene Hays, owner of travel agent Hays Travel, said the company has seen a ‘huge spike’ in appetite for holidays.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In fact in the last week of January we were back to the same levels of bookings as we were in January 2020.’

Spain, Turkey, Greece and the USA are popular destinations, she said, adding that people are also choosing destinations much further afield.

The average price per booking is also up by about £482 ‘because people just want to spend more on themselves, they want to go all inclusive and they want to stay a little bit longer’.

Dame Irene said ‘huge numbers’ are returning to the high street to book holidays, adding that 56% of customers are new to Hays Travel compared to 2019 when the number was about 19%.

‘They want to speak to human being, they want to get to know them, they want to make sure that they’re getting the best advice before they book, but they also need to know that somebody will be there for them while they’re on their holiday and when they return,’ she said.

Tory health minister Gillian Keegan apologises for ‘error of judgement’ after she continued meeting with three bereaved fathers despite testing positive for Covid on lateral flow 

Tory health minister Gillian Keegan has apologised for an ‘error of judgement’ after continuing a meeting despite testing positive for Covid-19

The MP for Chichester took a ‘precautionary’ lateral flow test ahead of a planned visit at Westminster yesterday with Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters to suicide.

She received a positive result during the meeting but, instead of leaving to self-isolate, briefly continued with the bereaved fathers’ consent.

The minister for care and mental health has now recognised she should have immediately ended the visit, saying: ‘This was an error of judgment on my part.’

Her comments sparked a huge backlash online, as one resident of her constituency branded her actions ‘appalling’ while others questioned why she attended the meeting without knowing the result. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has accepted Ms Keegan’s apology and ‘continues to support her in her role’.

In the event of a positive test result, the NHS website says you must self-isolate ‘straight away’.

Gillian Keegan (above) took a lateral flow test ahead of a planned visit at Westminster yesterday with Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters to suicide

Gillian Keegan (above) took a lateral flow test ahead of a planned visit at Westminster yesterday with Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters to suicide

Gillian Keegan (above) took a lateral flow test ahead of a planned visit at Westminster yesterday with Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters to suicide

The MP for Chichester received a positive result during the meeting but, instead of leaving to self-isolate, briefly continued with the bereaved fathers' (pictured) consent

The MP for Chichester received a positive result during the meeting but, instead of leaving to self-isolate, briefly continued with the bereaved fathers' (pictured) consent

The MP for Chichester received a positive result during the meeting but, instead of leaving to self-isolate, briefly continued with the bereaved fathers’ (pictured) consent

When should you self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19?

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in England must self-isolate ‘straight away’ and get a PCR test as soon as possible.

It is a legal requirement to self-isolate, and those who do not could be fined. 

You should also self-isolate immediately if someone you live with has symptoms or tests positive – unless you are fully vaccinated, exempt from vaccination, under 18 or part of an approved Covid vaccine trial. 

If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if symptomless) and the next 10 full days.

Self-isolation can end after five full days, as long as you test negative on day five and day six.

The NHS says self-isolating ‘stops the virus spreading to other people’. 

Source: NHS England  

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In a thread on Twitter published last night, Ms Keegan wrote: ‘Earlier today, ahead of a planned visit I took a precautionary LFD test which gave a positive result. I am now isolating at home and fortunately feel fine.

‘When I was told my test was positive I was listening to three fathers who had tragically lost their daughters to suicide. 

‘I told them the result and took further precautions but with their consent, I stayed for a short period to hear their stories. 

‘I should have immediately ended the meeting and on reflection this was an error of judgment on my part. 

‘I fully recognise the importance of following the letter and spirit of the policies, so want to be upfront about what happened and to apologise for the mistake I made.’ 

A spokesman for Mr Javid said: ‘The Secretary of State has spoken with the minister who has taken responsibility for her actions and made a full apology.

‘He accepts her apology and continues to support her in her role.’

And asked what he would say to Ms Keegan, health minister Ed Argar told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I saw that Twitter thread, I think, late last night, I think it was. 

‘She’s clearly issued a fulsome apology there, that she did make an error of judgment, she was open about that and she accepted she made an error of judgment.’ 

He added: ‘I understand – I haven’t spoken to or seen Gillian yesterday or today, so I don’t know first hand – but I understand from her Twitter thread that she set out the circumstances and apologised, and I understand that she has also spoken to and apologised to the Secretary of State, who has accepted that apology.’ 

But social media users criticised the health minister’s ‘reckless’ decision, with one person writing: ‘I am a member of your constituency, and I find this behaviour appalling. 

The minister for care and mental health has now recognised she should have immediately ended the visit, saying: 'This was an error of judgment on my part'

The minister for care and mental health has now recognised she should have immediately ended the visit, saying: 'This was an error of judgment on my part'

The minister for care and mental health has now recognised she should have immediately ended the visit, saying: ‘This was an error of judgment on my part’

Ms Keegan was meeting the fathers, who had raised nearly £1million in memory of their daughters, to discuss putting suicide on the national curriculum

Ms Keegan was meeting the fathers, who had raised nearly £1million in memory of their daughters, to discuss putting suicide on the national curriculum

Ms Keegan was meeting the fathers, who had raised nearly £1million in memory of their daughters, to discuss putting suicide on the national curriculum

‘As a school teacher I, like many, LFD at least twice per week. I do it in plenty of time, so I know I’ve tested negative before I go near any students or other staff. Wait for your result.’

Another posted: ‘Why did you do an LFT and go into a meeting without knowing the result?’

A third added: ‘How is it that you guys get to say a meaningless sorry on Twitter and we get fined if we break the rules!’

And a fourth commented: ‘This was very reckless, you should have taken the test before you decided to travel’, adding: ‘How many others did you put at risk beforehand?’ 

Source: Daily Mail

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