Covid in Scotland LIVE as Nicola Sturgeon urged to ditch vaccination passports
Covid will move towards ‘personal responsibility’
The public should not ‘work and live under government dictate any longer than necessary’, a minister has said, as Boris Johnson prepares to scrap the legal requirement to self-isolate in England.
The Prime Minister is due to unveil his ‘living with Covid’ plan on Monday, with reports that it will include an end to universal free testing.
Business Secretary Paul Scully said it was the right decision and the Prime Minister would weigh the balance between a return to normalcy and keeping people safe.
Scully told Sky News: “Infections are coming down quite rapidly, hospitalizations and deaths are also following – they tend to lag, obviously, the number of cases – but nevertheless you can see the trend inside of it.”
He said Mr Johnson would ‘seek the best advice possible but strike the right balance’.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he added that the Government cannot ‘wrap people in cotton for the rest of our lives’.
Mr Johnson will meet his Cabinet on Monday morning before updating MPs in the afternoon on his pandemic exit plan, which is expected to include ending laws requiring those who test positive for Covid to self- isolate.
He said the proposal would be to “finally set people free” after “one of the most difficult times in the history of our country”.
Some health experts have criticized the decision to drop the quarantine requirement after a positive result.
But Scully said it was a step towards personal responsibility.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the UK now has a ‘wall of immunity’ thanks to vaccines’ but the decision on when and how to reduce restrictions is enormously difficult.”
He said the benefits of the restrictions are obvious in “reducing the chains of transmission, the risks of people getting infected, the burden on the health system”, but the downsides of the restrictions are harder to assess.
“They include things, just from a health perspective, like the impact on hospitals of staff self-isolating, the inability to perform operations, there will be surgery canceled today which can be critical for people because of staff who are off work during this time; the impact on education, the workplace and the economy.
“The economic and mental health impacts will have longer term consequences. So if we could find a measure that brings all of this together, we might find the right time (to lift the restrictions).”
Sir Andrew said ‘there is no right or wrong answer to this because we don’t have a measurement that helps us get there’.
Responding to concerns that unscrupulous employers could force or pressure workers to come to work after the end of the legal stay-at-home requirement, Mr Scully said companies still had a legal duty of care.
“I would say it’s like any disease, frankly, any communicable disease you would say stay at home,” he said, but he admitted “it will be up to them or their employer”.
He said workers should contact Acas if they “really believe there is harm to them”.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Mr Johnson told the BBC’s Sunday Morning program that the UK had spent £2billion on testing in January alone and that such high spending had not need to continue.
Mr Scully echoed this and told Sky News: ‘If you think about what that £2 billion could be used for, there are a lot of other backlogs in the NHS, other illnesses in the NHS, that this money could otherwise be used.
“So for every person who is worried about a test, there may be another person who is worried about a cancer diagnosis, for example.”
On Sunday, UK government data shows 11,555 people are in hospital with the disease, including 331 in ventilation beds.
Mr Johnson said the latest data meant it was time for the UK to shift the balance between “state mandate” and “personal responsibility”.
The Prime Minister’s announcement will come just over 24 hours after it was confirmed the Queen had tested positive for coronavirus.