BORIS Johnson could reveal a plan on how the UK will live with Covid within weeks with free tests expected to be phased out.
With the Omicron variant posing less of a threat and data showing around 98 per cent of over 15s in the UK have some resistance to the strain, it’s understood the PM is drawing up a Living with Covid strategy.
The future plan could see isolation periods slashed and free lateral flow tests scrapped for all but the most high-risk places as ministers predict six more years of Covid.
It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
It’s reported Mr Johnson could set out a plan on how Brits can live with Covid in the future in the coming weeks.
But government sources say the main focus for now is the huge pressure the NHS is facing amid staff shortages as calls for the isolation period to be cut grow.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi declared on Sunday Britain will be the first to put the pandemic behind us, but warned the impacts of Covid could still last another 10 years.
And Zahawi said there was hope on the horizon as he became the first Cabinet minister to back cutting the self-isolation period from seven to five days.
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Speaking on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, he said: “I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic, and then deal with this however long it remains with us, whether that’s five, six, seven, 10 years.”
Plans reportedly being considered by officials could also mean that free lateral flow tests would only be available at no cost in “high-risk” settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools.
The cost-cutting move would also see the NHS Test and Trace service scaled back.
But Mr Zahawi denied claims free lateral flow tests could be ditched, insisting they will “absolutely not” be axed.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday that he was “puzzled” by the reports and confirmed the tests will continue to be free.
However No10’s Autumn and Winter Plan spelled out that the government would eventually phase out the free tests and instead “individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost”.
‘BRITAIN MOST IMMUNE’
Meanwhile, an expert has claimed Britain could be the world’s most immune country in the fight against Covid.
The hugely positive claim comes as data revealed around 98 per cent of over 15s in the UK have some resistance to the Omicron variant, which means they could experience milder symptoms and an overall less serious disease.
It could point to why hospitalisations with the virus remain low – despite skyrocketing case numbers – explained Dr Raghib Ali, Senior Clinical Research Associate at MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.
But the top doc, who also works across a raft of other roles in the NHS and Public Health England, encouraged Brits to continue to follow rules to not risk overwhelming the health service as staff absence is a “major problem”.
Ways to keep safe, and ensure the NHS stays afloat, include wearing face masks, washing your hands, taking LFT and PCR tests accordingly and isolating if you have symptoms or a positive result.
Dr Raghib told The Sun: “Basically, what the graph shows is combined data on vaccination with data from the MRC, which produces a monthly update to what proportion of people have had a natural infection, plus dosage and infections by age.
“It’s based on over 15-year-olds, so it’s not everybody, and there’s two factors – one is waning immunity from previous vaccination or infection, and then increasing immunity from boosters, and new infections, and how those things are balancing out, which nobody really knows.
“But we’re probably the most immune country in the world.”
And the number of Covid cases in the UK dropped for the fifth day in a row yesterday with 97 deaths being recorded.
There were a total of 141,472 cases reported in the UK on Sunday after Covid deaths passed the grim milestone of 150,000 on Saturday.