Boris Johnson has announced that, beginning later this week, all domestic Covid restrictions will be lifted in England. Here's what's going on and when it'll happen.
The new guidelines follow a recent relaxation of pre-flight testing procedures, and they are part of a broader relaxation of Covid-19 limitations as the UK begins to treat the virus as endemic.
“To show that this country is open for business, open for travellers, you will see changes,” Mr Johnson told broadcasters on Monday in a pooled interview. If they are twice vaccinated, “those arriving no longer have to take tests.”
When is self-isolation ending?
The legal necessity to self-isolate will stop on Thursday, following parliamentary acceptance of Johnson's scheme, with people instead encouraged to stay at home if they have Covid or suspect they have. On the fifth and sixth days of the illness, they will be encouraged to perform a lateral flow test, and if both are negative and they do not have a temperature, they can return to normal life.
Non-vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to self-isolate if they have been in close touch with someone who has tested positive, and vaccinated adults and children who have been in contact with a Covid case will no longer be required to test themselves for seven days. Contact tracing will also be discontinued.
What else is ending?
There will be no need for Covid status certificates, and persons will not be required to produce proof of immunization. The government would also repeal the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No 3) Regulations, which allow local governments to impose their own restrictions in response to Covid outbreaks.
Wider business guidance will be changed, including the elimination of the current requirement for companies to explicitly consider Covid in their risk assessments.
Will restrictions come back?
Is it probable. Officials have emphasized that Covid is not yet endemic, and that new varieties that are both more transmissible and dangerous than Omicron could emerge.
Travel was resuming in the fall, just as the Omicron variant's rapid spread reversed a relaxing of border regulations for individuals who had been immunized.
According to statistics from aviation analytics firm Cirium, the number of overseas flights scheduled from the UK during the February half-term holiday is up sixfold from a year before, but is still 41% lower than in 2020, before the initial European lockdowns took place. The most popular destination is Spain, followed by Ireland.
“This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK PLCs (Public Limited Companies), “ said Mr Tim Alderslade, chairman of the Airlines UK industry lobby. "Nearly two years after the initial Covid-19 limitations were imposed, today's announcement restores foreign travel to near-normalcy for fully vaccinated travelers, bringing hospitality and the home sector back into line."
In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is anticipated to provide more details on the new policy.
The United Kingdom has begun to relax its "Plan B" Covid-19 limitations, which were imposed across England in December after the Omicron form spread rapidly through the population.
People will no longer be required to work from home, and restrictions requiring them to wear face masks in stores and on public transportation will be repealed on January 27.
This week also marks the end of the mandatory Covid-19 passes for enterprises.