Boris Johnson has announced that England’s Covid restrictions could come to an end one month early.
Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday, February 9, that the legal requirement to self-isolate for at least five days for anyone testing positive for a coronavirus infection could be scrapped a month earlier than expected in England.
The move will likely please some Conservative backbenchers and could be a boost for the prime minister, who is currently facing a myriad of scandals including a series of parties at 10 Downing Street he may have attended which police are investigating over possible breaking of the lockdown rules.
New photos published in the Daily Mirror show the prime minister standing next to an open bottle of champagne at Downing Street’s Christmas quiz, with the Metropolitan Police now reviewing their decision not to further investigate that particular party.
Johnson is facing growing political pressure as a number of his own Tory MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in his leadership.
The prime minister’s announcement to MPs that as long as positive trends in the pandemic data continued then restrictions could end earlier than planned came as a surprise, as measures had been due to expire in England on March 24.
Per the BBC, Johnson will now lay out the government’s strategy for living with the virus when parliament returns from recess on February 21, meaning the requirement to self-isolate could be scrapped a month earlier than planned.
However, The Independent reports many are less than pleased with the surprise announcement and have questioned whether the prime minister’s motives behind speeding up the end of restrictions are more to do with saving his political bacon rather than it being the right time to do so.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Johnson’s statement to MPs had been ‘designed to dig [the prime minister] out of a political hole’ rather than act in the good of public health.
Meanwhile, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the prospect of lifting Covid restrictions earlier in England had not been discussed at the most recent meeting between scientific experts and government ministers.
Another Sage member said Johnson’s announcement ‘doesn’t seem very cautious’ and that he was ‘very concerned that the number of cases remains very high’.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said the prime minister’s surprise decision to speed up the end of coronavirus restrictions in England was ‘an experiment which will either be shown to be very brave or very stupid’.
Wednesday’s coronavirus figures report there have been 68,214 new infections, 1,196 hospitalisations and 276 more deaths.
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