Search icon


18th Jan 2022

Covid restrictions in England could end in March under No 10 plans

Kieran Galpin

Scientists are split on the policy change

Number 10 is reportedly putting together plans to end the remaining Plan B restrictions in March, meaning face masks could soon be a thing of the past.

A senior source within Downing Street claimed they were looking to end the mandatory self-isolation period for those who test positive, reports the Guardian. The rules, which have been described as “perverse” for the long term, could be abolished and replaced with guidance.

The government is set to backtrack on working from home and covid passports this week – but rules surrounding face masks in shops and public transport are expected to remain in place for a short while longer.

“There’s a few legal powers still on the statute book, not least the requirement to self-isolate. At some point we will have to address them,” the source claimed.

A further two sources said covid passports and working from home were “unlikely to continue” past January 26, with mask mandates still in effect. It is also likely that Number 10 will lift covid testing for those citizens returning from abroad.

The scientific community is split on the decision, with some saying it’s the next logical step and others claiming it could create more pressure for the NHS.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said that mandatory self-isolation is still vital in the continued response to the pandemic.

“The widespread availability of lateral flow tests that enable self-isolation has undoubtedly been one of our strongest responses to the Covid-19 pandemic,” they said. “We should therefore see this as an opportunity to enhance our public health response to other serious diseases rather than to downgrade our Covid response.”

They added: “Such an approach would, in addition to saving lives, reduce the annual winter burden of respiratory illnesses on the NHS, freeing up space and resources to focus on other health needs.”

In contrast, Professor Rowland Kao of the University of Edinburgh said the change was inevitable. He added that “so long as it’s with guidance from the state of the epidemic in the UK, it doesn’t seem unreasonable”.

He continued: “Flu season should be largely over, and hopefully by then we’ll also get a sense of how much antivirals are helping to reduce severity.

“In general, we also might expect less mixing indoors and circulating natural immunity should be very high at that point.”

It is expected that an official announcement of some kind will follow this week.

Related links: