Boris Johnson wants to turn the page on COVID

Despite warnings and criticism, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce on Monday the end of England’s latest anti-COVID restrictions, including mandatory isolation for the sick.

Advanced by a month by a Boris Johnson threatened by the black cloud of “partygate”, the presentation of this plan comes as Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. According to Buckingham Palace, the 95-year-old sovereign, however, only suffers from “mild” symptoms.

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As soon as the peak of the Omicron wave passed in January, the head of the Conservative government had already lifted most of the restrictions in force in England, such as the indoor mask and the health passport for discos or mass events.

He now wants to go even further, boasting in a press release “a moment of pride after one of the most difficult periods in the history of our country as we begin to learn to live with COVID”.

“The pandemic is not over, but thanks to the incredible deployment of the vaccine, we are taking one more step towards a return to normal,” he added.

These include ending the obligation to isolate oneself in the event of a positive test, or even abandoning or reducing access to free tests.

A sign of the tensions surrounding these final stages, the council of ministers scheduled for the morning to validate this plan was postponed at the last minute and must now take place later in the afternoon, Downing Street said.

According to local media, disagreements between Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid over the possible abandonment of free tests explain the postponement.

Once the project has been finalized by the ministers, the Prime Minister must make a statement to Parliament and then hold a press conference in the evening.

Among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, the United Kingdom has deplored more than 160,000 deaths from the virus in the past two years.

After a first lifting of most of the restrictions at the beginning of the summer, the appearance of the Omicron variant had forced the government to reintroduce in the fall compulsory indoor mask and vaccination passport, finally abandoned in January.

The number of cases has fallen sharply, but remains around 40,000 per day.

According to Robert West, a psychologist at University College London and a member of the government’s scientific council, lifting all restrictions would be an “irresponsible” decision. “There will be an increase in cases. And there will be an increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” he told Times Radio.

“This week, a 95-year-old lady catches COVID. Having been tested early, she can be prescribed antivirals which must be taken within three to five days of infection to be effective,” tweeted Stephen Reicher, a highly critical expert on government health policy, on Sunday evening. reference to the queen.

“Next week, another 95-year-old lady may catch COVID, without being able to afford tests,” he continued. “His life matters too.”

World Health Organization (WHO) envoy for Europe David Nabarro has meanwhile expressed concern that the country is “choosing a line that goes against the public health consensus” , which would create “a domino effect in the world”.

In matters of health, government decisions in London are restricted to England because of devolution which gives powers to the Parliaments of the other three nations. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have often taken a more cautious approach.

Stuck in a scandal over parties organized in Downing Street during confinement, which threatens his political survival, Boris Johnson has chosen to accelerate the easing of anti-COVID restrictions, criticized by part of his majority and his electorate.

The scandal is under police investigation, but Boris Johnson refuses to say whether he will resign if fined.

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