Mandatory face masks will no longer be required across England from next week while advice for people to work from home will be dropped immediately, the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson told MPs in the Commons he was axing Plan B measures, which also include the use of mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs and large events, owing to a decline in infections and a belief among scientists that the peak of the Omicron wave of Covid-19 has passed.
As a result of the move, people are no longer required to work from home where possible, while face masks will no longer be needed in places such as shops and on public transport from next Thursday.
Face coverings will also be scrapped in classrooms from this Thursday, with school communal areas to follow.
The legal requirement for people with coronavirus to self-isolate will be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.
Mr Johnson signalled his intention to start treating Covid-19 more like flu, telling MPs: “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.
“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.”
The bonfire of Covid regulations could help appease Mr Johnson’s Tory critics at a time when the Prime Minister has been under pressure over Downing Street parties.
It comes after Covid infection levels fell in most parts of the UK for the first time since early December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Mr Johnson said this data showed that while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, “our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally”.
He added: “There remain, of course, significant pressures on the NHS across our country, and especially in the North East and North West, but hospital admissions which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago have now stabilised, with admissions in London even falling.