UK’s PM denies end to COVID-19 law is reckless

London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied throwing "caution to the wind" as he prepares to end all pandemic-related legal restrictions in England, amid a political backlash and scientific unease.

Johnson's premiership is in peril as police investigate a series of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street, and he stands accused by opposition parties of seeking to distract public attention with the new COVID-19 plan.

But in a BBC interview broadcast on Sunday, he said that with case numbers and hospitalisations from the Omicron wave apparently under control, it was time to revert to "personal responsibility" rather than legal mandates.

"I'm not saying that we should throw caution to the wind. But it's time for everybody to get their confidence back," he said, after bringing forward the plan by a month from when the current law was due to expire in late March.

However, the prime minister also stressed: "I think it's very important we should remain careful. Covid remains a dangerous disease, particularly if you haven't been vaccinated."

Under a "living with Covid" plan, the government says it intends this week to end a legal requirement for people to self-isolate when infected with the coronavirus. Johnson could address parliament as early as Monday.

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The government says local authorities will be required to manage further outbreaks with pre-existing legal powers, and is expected to phase out free COVID-19 testing for the general public, having already eliminated a mandate to wear masks in public settings.

The NHS Confederation, which represents senior managers in the state-run National Health Service, said its internal polling showed a large majority of health staff were opposed to ending self-isolation and free tests.

Matthew Taylor, the confederation's chief executive, acknowledged that the government's mass vaccination programme and emergence of new COVID-19 treatments offered "real hope".

"But the government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely," he said.

Artmotion Asia

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