Britain is to drop restrictions for double vaccinated people and reopen its border to European and American travellers from next month.
oris Johnson has decided that from August 16 the fully vaccinated will not be required to take a test if they come into contact with someone with Covid unless they have symptoms.
It had been reported that workers would only be released from self-isolation after a negative test and health officials had been planning for a massive new system of compulsory testing.
With Covid cases falling for a seventh successive day, the prime minister has also decided to reopen the country to foreign tourists from the EU and North America who have been fully vaccinated.
Travel to the UK was previously only possible without quarantine from a handful of green-list countries.
It is understood that Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and other ministers had argued that the cost of stopping inward tourism and business trips was harming the economy at a time when most of Europe has reopened.
The decision to loosen rules came on Mr Johnson’s first day back at work in Downing Street following his isolation after coming into contact with Sajid Javid, the health secretary, who tested positive for coronavirus.
Over the past fortnight, Mr Johnson has faced criticism from business leaders over the growing economic costs of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ which had led to hundreds of thousands of vaccinated workers being forced to self-isolate.
The government, which has seen its lead in the polls slip, had been warned that the economic recovery risked being derailed unless ministers stepped in to stem the chaos.
Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund predicted Britain’s economy will grow faster than any major economy in Europe as it rebounds from the pandemic.
Yesterday, 23,511 new Covid cases were logged in the UK, meaning numbers have now fallen below France, which registered 26,871.
Despite 131 deaths, the week-long fall in cases – the first time that Covid infections have consistently dropped outside of lockdowns – has led to cautious optimism among ministers and scientists.
Prof Neil Ferguson, a prominent member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was unsure if his prediction of 100,000 daily cases would now come to pass.
“We’re not completely out of the woods but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death,” said Prof Ferguson.
“I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic. We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”
Mr Johnson struck a cautious note as he was asked about falling case numbers. “It is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this,” the prime minister warned.
However, there were signs Mr Johnson is determined to push ahead with lifting some remaining restrictions later in the summer. Changes to self-isolation rules are due to come into effect on August 16, now less than three weeks away.
The PM has resisted pressure from some of his ministers – most recently expressed privately at a Covid-O Cabinet committee meeting on Monday – to bring the date forward. However, senior Whitehall sources have indicated that Mr Johnson has settled on a lenient definition of the new rules for self-isolation.
Under the new rules, people who have had two doses of Covid vaccinations and waited two weeks for them to take effect will be urged to get a PCR test once pinged instead of self-isolating. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)
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Telegraph Media Group Limited