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Anyone in England who tests positive for COVID-19 will, from Thursday Feb. 24, no longer be legally required to isolate.
The decision — which has been heavily criticized by the scientific community — was announced on Monday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of a complete relaxation of all COVID restrictions in place. Currently, positive or symptomatic people must isolate for up to 10 days.
“People will be asked to exercise personal responsibility just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others,” Johnson told Parliament as he unveiled the government’s new hands-on approach to the pandemic, entitled “Living With Covid.”
Johnson also said that, from April 1, free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public would also end, another move that has been widely condemned across the political and scientific spectrum.
“Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and all the life chances of our children, and we do not have to pay the price any longer,” he said.
The new rules will likely impact all areas of the economy, which at the peak of both the delta and omicron variant surges experienced reduced workforce due to the large numbers of people isolating. The film and TV industries — currently in the midst of an unprecedented boom in the U.K. — haven’t been immune to this, with many shoots heavily disrupted by crews that were suddenly depleted due to positive test cases. In 2021, major productions, including Bridgerton, House of Dragon, Gangs of London and Matilda were among those forced to temporarily shutter.
On Feb. 20, 74 people in the U.K. died within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19, bringing the total to 161,000.
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