British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that most COVID-19 restrictions, notably mask mandates and vaccine passports, will be abolished in England. While some measures will be removed immediately, others are set to be deactivated in the coming weeks.
“We can return to Plan A [loose regulations] in England and allow Plan B [strict] regulations to expire. As a result, from the start on Thursday next week, mandatory certification [vaccine passports] will end,” Johnson stated during a Jan. 19 session of Parliament.
“Organizations can, of course, choose to use the NHS COVID-pass voluntarily, but we will end the compulsory use of COVID status certification in England.”
According to the UK Government website, compulsory masking in public spaces will vanish along with the use of vaccine passports.
The Prime Minister added that effective immediately, his government would abolish its work from home mandate for businesses.
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“From tomorrow, we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department of Education will surely update national guidance on their use in communal areas,” Johnson said.
He stated that the government will instead “continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed and in public places, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet,” but rather than mandate the measure, “will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
Johnson also announced that his government “will also ease restrictions further on visits to care homes” in the process of returning to “Plan A.”
Back to ‘Plan A’
The current regulations on self-isolation after a positive PCR test, set to expire on March 24, are not likely to be renewed, Johnson was paraphrased as stating by the BBC.
The article further stated that the regulation may be rescinded sooner if “the data allows.”
The Prime Minister also announced the easing of travel directions and said the administration considered ending the self-isolating provision for people with a positive reading on their PCR test.
He also claimed data demonstrated that infection levels were going down in England, hospital admissions had stabilized, and that “it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.”
Johnson said the loosening up was made possible thanks to “the extraordinary booster campaign” and the Brits’ compliance with the Plan B measures.
At the same time, Johnson indicated that the virus is here to stay, and so regulations and restrictions may remain with it, “We must learn to live with COVID in the same way we live with 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,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s latest move is similar to a position employed by the Spanish government, which used similar wording when it announced a change of strategy in its pandemic response last week, stating that COVID should be considered on the same level as the flu, and should be coped with appropriately.
Other countries, such as Japan and Mexico, have also jettisoned many pandemic restrictions.
Johnson’s frail political status
Johnson’s move comes at a moment when his premiership is severely under fire from both sides of the political spectrum after he allegedly organized several parties at 10 Downing Street.
While the rest of the country was suffering under lockdown, he breached many of his own policies.
Johnson claimed at that time “nobody warned” him that it’s not a good idea as a leader to thwart all COVID regulations.
“I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take,” Johnson’s former political ally, and eminence grise of the Conservative Party David Davis declared during a session of Parliament.
“Yesterday, he did the opposite of that,” Davis said, referring to Johnson’s less-than-believable excuse.
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing,” Davis added. “In the name of God, go!”
Some analysts comment that loosening measures is just a decoy to steer away attention from Johnson’s frail political status because the Prime Minister surely would not be so foolish as to host several “bring your own booze” parties without knowing it would set a poor example as the head of the country.
Some political commentators, such as Dutch political analyst Martin Vrijland, therefore distrust the move, “The removal of the measures is nothing more than a harbinger for an upcoming replacement of BoJo,” he stated on his website.