Boris Johnson's plan to scrap Covid isolation rules was 'bit of a surprise,' admits Northamptonshire's interim health chief

Pleas to still stay at home if you feel unwell, but concerns that lowest-paid will not be able to miss work

By Kevin Nicholls
Friday, 11th February 2022, 11:56 am

Health chiefs in Northamptonshire admit Boris Johnson announcement about scrapping Covid self-isolation rules later this month came as 'a bit of a surprise.'

John Ashton, the county's interim director of public health, confessed: "In recent days and weeks, things have been moved forward faster than many of us anticipated."

The Prime Minister revealed he wants to roll back all remaining coronavirus restrictions within a fortnight, a month earlier than planned.

Northamptonshire's interim health chief says the PM's plan to axe Covid quarantine rules relies on people taking 'personal responsibility'

But Mr Ashton said: "This has not gone away. We've seen the anxiety generated about the possibility of The Queen having been exposed to the virus from Prince Charles.

"This is the situation which many people are likely to face once these changes are made.

"It puts the spotlight on the fact that it's going to be down to people's personal responsibility and if they feel unwell they really need to stay at home and not expose fellow workers or friends and neighbours to the possibility of getting the virus.

"Still about 200 people are dying from virus every day and long Covid is still a big threat for people of all ages."

Mr Johnson told the Commons: "It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.

"Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions — including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive — a full month early."

Current regulations requiring anyone who tests positive for Covid to quarantine for up to ten days are due to expire on March 24.

Some scientists are warning the PM risks sending a signal that the 'pandemic is all over' while unions said he was 'going too far, way too soon' and charities fear it could leave clinically vulnerable people exposed.

NHS England data revealed the number of Covid patients in Northamptonshire's two main hospitals fell by around 20 per cent from 193 to 153 by Tuesday (February 8).

Latest numbers of positive tests in the county published daily by the government have also tumbled to under 7.000 a week from around 10,000 seven days earlier.

Mr Ashton who is president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, is working in Northamptonshire during the recruitment process to find a replacement for Lucy Wightman, who will take over as director of public health in Essex in April.

He admits there are fears many people will be reluctant to take time off work for fear of losing out on wages.

He added: "There is a concern about the ability of people to isolate, particularly those on zero hours contracts.

"People are going to put potentially in a difficult position.

"It will be a challenge and we must continue to press on to people the need to get the vaccine, to wear masks in crowded places and public transport and to take personal responsibility for not spreading the virus around."