Feb 21, 2022 - Health

Boris Johnson ends COVID self-isolation requirement in England

Photo of Boris Johnson's face and fluffy hair
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves from 10 Downing Street in London on Feb. 21. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ended England's self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for COVID-19 despite pushback from scientists.

Why it matters: Though the government still advises people with COVID to stay at home and avoid contact with others, Johnson said that Monday's move, which goes into effect Feb. 24, will aim to treat COVID like any other transmissible illness.

Details: In addition to ending the self-isolation requirement, fully vaccinated close contacts and those under the age of 18 will no longer be required to test daily for seven days after Feb. 24.

  • Close contacts who aren't fully vaccinated won't need to self-isolate either.
  • England will also end medicine delivery services and self-isolation support payments for those who miss work.
  • Only "at-risk groups" will be able to access free COVID tests starting April 1.
  • The new rules won't apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which all have the authority to make their own health regulations.

What they're saying: Though Johnson emphasized that the pandemic is far from over, he told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the country is "moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility."

Yes, but: Scientists warn that ending the requirements would impair the country's ability to track and detect cases.

  • Surveillance for the virus is "an early warning system if you like, which tells us about new variants emerging and gives an ability to monitor whether those new variants are indeed causing more severe disease than Omicron did," Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group that created the AstraZeneca vaccine, told AP.

Worth noting: The announcement comes days after Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for the virus.

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