British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during an event. File photo
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set on Monday to announce an end to all pandemic legal curbs in England, insisting it is time to move on despite political opposition and unease from the UN’s health agency.
Two years after Covid-19 sparked the worst health crisis in generations, Johnson will address parliament to outline his plan, pressing ahead despite news on Sunday that Queen Elizabeth II had tested positive for the first time.
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However, he stands accused by opposition parties of seeking to distract public attention, with his premiership in peril as police investigate a series of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.
“Today (Monday) 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,” Johnson said in a Downing Street statement.
The government’s mass vaccination programme and the emergence of new Covid treatments offered “real hope”.
“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.”
Under the “living with Covid” plan, the government says it intends this week to end a legal requirement for people to self-isolate when infected with the coronavirus.
It says local authorities will be required to manage further outbreaks with pre-existing legal powers, and is expected to phase out free Covid testing for the general public.
The NHS Confederation, which represents senior managers in the state-run National Health Service, said internal polling showed a large majority of its members were opposed to ending self-isolation and free tests.
Matthew Taylor, the confederation’s chief executive, acknowledged that the government’s mass vaccination programme and the emergence of new Covid treatments offered “real hope”.
“But the government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely,” he said.