From Thursday the 24th of February the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid-19 no longer applies but it is still advised to limit contact with others as far as possible if you test positive until April, if you can. The guidance that encouraged teachers and students in school settings to routinely test twice a week has also been removed. The emergency powers that were given to councils to impose restrictions on venues locally have been taken away, and from April new, more general public health guidance will be issued.
During the pandemic we had to take some extraordinary and draconian powers to control the spread of the virus, but these were only ever temporary. The freedom of society and individual liberties really matter, and it is essential that government actively take down the emergency powers and rules that were put in place and allow people to return to life as normal and make their own judgements about risk and their personal safety. Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children. As such, we must use other measures such as the further expansion of our world beating vaccine program.
Since the beginning of last year, the UK has consistently been ahead of the rest of the world in protecting out population and we were the first European country to give booster doses to at least half of our population. It is because of this success that we have now been able to withdraw almost all guidance around Covid-19 and are now able to end mandatory self-isolation from today.
However, we also want to help the rest of the world emerge from the pandemic. The UK developed one of the first vaccines to be used. We have now distributed 2.5 billion doses of the UK-developed AstraZeneca vaccine, just 1 year after the first dose was administered here in the UK. This has undoubtedly saved countless lives and will have made a substantial difference to end the pandemic but there is further to go in other countries and we are supporting programmes like Covax which is operated by the World Health Organisation.
There is a broad consensus now among much of the medical community that we are approaching the Endemic stage of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and that we will need to live alongside it much as we already live alongside seasonal flu or colds. While we will almost certainly see further variants emerge and will need to maintain some surveillance, we are on a definitive route back to normality.
Escalation in Ukraine:
This week has also seen a considerable escalation in the situation in Ukraine, which has been building for some time. On Tuesday, the Russian Parliament authorised the use of Russian troops abroad and the Government formally recognised the states of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent from Ukraine. The safety and security of British nationals in Ukraine remains a top priority. The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Ukraine.
In response to the actions of the Russian state towards Ukraine and Russia’s breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by sending troops into eastern Ukraine, the government announced in Parliament new sanctions on five Russian banks and a group of oligarchs. It is important that we take steps to place sanctions on Russia for the actions it has taken.