Legal requirement for people with Covid to self-isolate to be scrapped, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said the legal requirement on people with coronavirus to self-isolate will be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.

The Prime Minister signalled to MPs on Wednesday his intention to start treating Covid more like flu, as he announced Plan B measures aimed at tackling the spread of Covid-19 are to be dropped across England.

He said: "As we return to Plan A, the House will know that some measures still remain, including those on self-isolation.

"In particular, it is still a legal requirement for those who have tested positive for Covid to self-isolate.

“On Monday we reduced the isolation period to five full days with two negative tests, and there will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don't place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.

"As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

"The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them. Indeed, were the data to allow, I'd like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forward."

For now, people who test positive for Covid still have to self-isolate. The self-isolation period was cut to five days on Monday. People can leave isolation at the start of day six, subject to two negative lateral flow tests taken a day apart.

Mr Johnson said the Government would set out its "long-term strategy for living with Covid-19" at a later date, "Explaining how we hope and intend to protect our liberty and avoid restrictions in future by relying instead on medical advances, especially the vaccines which have already saved so many lives.

"But to make that possible we must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter. There are still over 16,000 people in hospital in England alone. The pandemic is not over."

Mr Johnson insisted Omicron is "not a mild disease for everyone", including the unvaccinated, and said people should continue washing their hands, letting fresh air in, testing and self-isolating if positive.

ONS data shows that one in 20 people in private households in England- around three million people - is estimated to have had coronavirus in the week to January 15. That is down from 3.7 million in the week to January 6.