Self-isolation and mass testing are among the measures that could be scrapped early next year, according to documents seen by the Mail on Sunday. Ministers are also planning on narrowing the focus of remaining restrictions from the national to a more local level, with the “highest risk settings” to be prioritised over the rest.
Almost 20 months after Britain was plunged into its first national lockdown, the Government is working on the assumption that there will be “no winter resurgence” of Covid this year.
Its whopping 160-page document suggests that the virus is likely to remain “endemic” over the coming years, meaning that it will not disappear altogether and that the emergence of new Covid variants will “remain a very real risk”.
But it suggests that moving forward, the emphasis will be on bringing restrictions to an end, not on introducing yet more measures.
The Mail on Sunday reports that Test and Trace, which has so far been given a budget of £37billion, could be wound down next year.
Free Covid tests are also likely to face to chop, allowing firms to charge for PCR and lateral flow tests.
This would mean that if, under its winter ‘Plan B’, a system of vaccine passports were introduced in which Britons either had to prove they had been fully vaccinated or had recently tested negative for Covid in order to enter certain settings, not getting vaccinated would become a more unattractive and expensive ideal.
Leaked documents also reveal that the legal requirement for those who test positive for Covid to self-isolate for 10 days will not be renewed when it expires in March.
On top of this, health officials will, in the future, be told to weigh the benefits of imposing new restrictions against the costs.
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Jamie Walden, author of “The Cult of Covid: How Lockdown Destroyed Britain”, told Express.co.uk: “It is welcome news to read the Government does not intend to keep the Covid cottage industry as a permanent feature of our lives. But we can be increasingly confident that epidemic phases of the virus in this country are a thing of the past.
“The dismantling of the pandemic apparatus should be happening now.”
Chris Green MP added on Twitter that “Operation Rampdown” is not a fitting title for the Government’s approach because “NHS compulsory vaccination, pending the vote, [will] come in at the beginning of April”.
While the Government looks at altering Covid measures next March, Independent SAGE believes ‘Plan B’ should be introduced “urgently”.
The group said: “The pressure on the NHS is extreme and increasing, the backlog of treatment is at a record high, [the Government] needs to act now.”
This comes despite reports, based on Government data, that UK Covid cases are in their longest decline in six months.