Plan B Covid restrictions are to end in England, with Covid passes no longer required from next Thursday, work from home guidance lifted, and an end to mandatory face-coverings, Boris Johnson has announced.
A meeting of Cabinet agreed this morning that the Plan B rules in place since early December will be lifted on their scheduled review date of 26 January.
Work from home guidance is lifted immediately and people are no longer encouraged to work remotely if possible.
"Having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse the Government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere,” the prime minister told MPs on Wednesday.
"From tomorrow, we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas.
"In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don't normally meet - but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one."
Mr Johnson’s announcement was met with audible shouts of delight from his own party’s benches. The PM also confirmed that some Covid measures would stay in place for now, such as on travel, and the legal requirement for a person who tests positive to self-isolate for five days.
But he MPs that “there will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don't place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu” and that this point would likely be reached before March.
"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,” he said.
"The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them. Indeed, were the data to allow, I'd like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forward."
Mr Johnson said that the health secretary Sajid Javid would lay out more details on the government’s “long-term strategy for living with Covid-19” in “the coming days”.
This would explain “how we hope and intend to protect our liberty and avoid restrictions in future by relying instead on medical advances, especially the vaccines which have already saved so many lives”, he said, adding: "But to make that possible we must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter. There are still over 16,000 people in hospital in England alone. The pandemic is not over."
Responding for the opposition, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: "Labour has a plan to live well with Covid and secure our lives, livelihoods and liberties, where's his?"
In reply, Mr Johnson said: "Throughout this pandemic he has been absolutely shameless in veering from one position to the next and he has been wrong about virtually every single important decision. He was wrong about keeping schools open.
"If he's thinks that there's any political opportunity in opposing it next week, he won't hesitate to do so, he's been captain hindsight throughout."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies