Boris Johnson will tomorrow bring forward the government’s plan for the next phase of Covid as England prepares to drop all pandemic restrictions.
Johnson today told the BBC that it was time to change England’s Covid strategy to his “living with Covid-19 plan” and that “now is the moment for everybody to get their confidence back”.
The final few Covid restrictions, including self-isolating after a positive Covid test, will be scrapped by the end of next week as a part of the government’s new strategy.
“We think you can shift the balance away from state mandation,” Johnson said.
The Prime Minister also indicated today that this plan would include scrapping free universal lateral flow tests, saying that testing would happen at a “much lower level”.
Johnson said free testing cost the state £2bn in January alone – a price that could not be sustained by the government.
However, he also added that he wanted people to “remain careful”.
“I don’t want people to get completely the wrong idea, I’m not saying you can totally throw caution to the winds – Covid remains dangerous if you’re vulnerable and if you’re not vaccinated, but we need people to be much more confident and get back to work,” he said.
Covid cases have been falling since the Omicron wave peaked in early January, with the UK averaging around 45,000 cases a day over the past week.
The Omicron wave never saw Covid deaths reach anywhere near the levels of the country’s first two major waves, with the UK averaging around 140 deaths a day over the past wek.
Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the government’s actions, particularly around testing, were premature.
He said scrapping free lateral flow tests was a “bit like being two one up with 10 minutes left of play and subbing your best defender — we are not out of the woods yet on Covid”.