British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will attempt to end all COVID-19 restrictions by March after insisting that the nation’s omicron surge has peaked.
The United Kingdom has already lifted some restrictions, with Scotland reopening nightclubs and lifting hospitality limits as of Jan. 24. Johnson wants to take the next steps and roll back all restrictions over the next two months as he seeks to salvage his floundering administration with populist policies.
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The government has pulled back on advising individuals to work from home and will also dispense with the controversial COVID-19 pass and requirements for face masks anywhere in England starting Jan. 27.
Most significantly, Johnson announced that the government would end the legal requirement for people to who test positive for a COVID infection to self-isolate. Current plans would see that restriction end on Mar. 24, but the government will vote whether it will move that deadline forward.
“We will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one,” Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday.
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He stressed that no one should see these changes as “the finish line” because the virus and future variants cannot be eradicated, meaning that people “must learn to live with COVID in the same way we live with flu.”
Johnson introduced the slate of policies, known as “Plan B measures,” in December when the omicron variant created a surge in new cases. The U.K. reported its peak number of over 218,000 cases at the start of January this year.
But Johnson’s measures proved incredibly unpopular with his own party, and he faced the largest backlash of his administration with a revolt of nearly 100 Conservative MPs who voted against the measures. Support from the opposition Labour Party pushed the measures through, Reuters reported.
Labour leader Kier Starmer said he would support the end of restrictions “as long as the science says it is safe,” the BBC reported. He then accused the prime minister of being “too distracted” to have a “robust plan to live well with COVID.”
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Johnson’s efforts to control the U.K. response to omicron has remained mired in an ongoing controversy over parties thrown by government officials during the 2020 holiday season when the country observed such a strict lockdown that people effectively could not visit their families for Christmas.
Johnson admitted that he attended a drinks event during the first lockdown of the pandemic, and rumors continue to swirl that he authorized and attended events during the 2020 holiday season lockdown. Johnson has therefore looked to cut party members and push forward new policies in what some have called “Operation: Save Big Dog” to salvage his administration, The Daily Mail reported.
Former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis Wednesday morning addressed the House of Commons and told Johnson, “In the name of God, go.”
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Six Conservative ministers have publicly declared no confidence in Johnson’s stewardship, with more ministers believed to have submitted letters of no confidence to party leadership.
Should 54 ministers from the Conservative party submit such letters, it will trigger a no-confidence vote and possible leadership challenge, ending Johnson’s tumultuous run as leader of the United Kingdom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.