Covid: England isolation rules to end on Thursday, and no more free tests from April

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday evening. We'll have another update for you in the morning.

1. Self-isolation requirement to end in England

People will no longer be required to isolate if they have coronavirus from Thursday, the prime minister has announced - as he set out an end to all legal Covid restrictions in England. Addressing the Commons on the government's plan for "living with Covid", Boris Johnson said routine contact tracing and self-isolation support payments would also end, but people would still be advised to isolate for at least five days if they tested positive. Mr Johnson said restrictions could be lifted because levels of immunity were high and deaths were low, and he said the focus was now on "personal responsibility" rather than restrictions.

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2. No more free tests from 1 April

Mr Johnson also announced that free mass testing will end on 1 April in England, even for people with symptoms of Covid. However, the most elderly and vulnerable will continue to get free tests if they are symptomatic and others will be able to pay for tests if they need them. The PM said the Office for National Statistics would continue to carry out its infection survey, and there will remain a strong domestic surveillance system of the virus. But he said that the nature of the Omicron variant meant testing "on the colossal scale we've been doing is much less important and much less valuable in preventing serious illness". However, he added there would be the ability to ramp testing back up in the NHS if need be. The PM will give a news conference later and you can follow our live coverage here.

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3. Extra booster jabs to be offered to most vulnerable

An additional booster dose should be offered to all adults over-75 and the most vulnerable over-12s this spring, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said. Many of the oldest received their latest shot back in the autumn and this extra dose will help top up protection against severe Covid-19. An autumn booster programme, aimed at a wider group of people, is also planned. Up until now, only people with severely weakened immune systems had been eligible for a fourth dose - three doses plus a booster.

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4. Queen continues to work while isolating with Covid

The Queen is working on "light duties" at Windsor Castle this week, despite testing positive for Covid, royal officials say. Buckingham Palace confirmed on Sunday that the Queen, 95, was experiencing "mild cold-like symptoms". Her tasks are likely to include reading state papers, which usually takes up a significant chunk of nearly every day. One of her duties on Monday was to send a message of condolence to the president of Brazil following flooding in the city of Petropolis.

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5. 'The world's leaving me behind here'

While the end of all coronavirus restrictions may be welcomed by many, those who are severely vulnerable to the virus are worried about what it could mean for them. Here Juliet Coffer, who has a severe lung condition and has been isolating for more than 800 days, explains how she feels unsafe at the prospect of Covid restrictions being scrapped.

Media caption,
Watch: Juliet Coffer, who been isolating for over 850 days, reacts to the prospect of no Covid restrictions

And there's more...

With an extra vaccine dose being recommended for the most vulnerable, here is a reminder of how to book your jab..

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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