When could other UK nations follow England in scrapping all Covid rules?
The remaining domestic coronavirus restrictions in England – including the legal requirement to self-isolate – could be lifted within weeks, Boris Johnson has announced.
The current regulations expire on March 24, but the Prime Minister has said he will end them a month early as long as “encouraging trends” in the data continue.
He will present his plan for “living with Covid” on February 21.
With rules potentially abolished later this month in England, when are the other nations of the UK likely to drop their restrictions?
In a sign of further easing of restrictions, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Thursday that pupils and teachers in secondary schools in Scotland will no longer need to wear face coverings in classrooms from February 28.
But the Scottish Government is unlikely to go as far as dropping all rules when it publishes its strategy for living with Covid in the months ahead on February 22.
The plans will be debated by MSPs, meaning any changes could be several weeks behind England.
The Scottish Government is also moving to extend its Covid powers until September 24.
The powers, which include the use of face coverings and the vaccine certification scheme, were due to expire in March.
Earlier on Thursday, Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf did not rule out easing measures sooner than planned but said Holyrood would do so in a “thoughtful” way driven by science, as he criticised Mr Johnson’s move as “off the cuff”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m sick and tired of all the restrictions too – I can’t wait for us to get back to full normality.
“But we also have to accept that there may be some baseline mitigation measures, again backed up by public health advice, that may have to be in place for longer than others.”
The extent to which Wales will follow England in shedding the remaining Covid rules could become clear later on Thursday, when the Welsh Government is expected to make an announcement.
First Minister Mark Drakeford and other ministers are set to consider changes to the regulations ahead of that announcement.
The country entered alert level 0 on January 28, when nightclubs reopened and social distancing rules ended. Requirements for self-isolation, Covid passes for some events, and face coverings are still in place.
– Northern Ireland
The end of Northern Ireland’s Covid restrictions could also be in sight, with Health Minister Robin Swann expecting to receive legal guidance about scrapping the remaining rules on Thursday.
The Stormont Executive was expected to discuss removing rules on Thursday, but the meeting could not take place due to the resignation of DUP First Minister Paul Givan last week.
That prompted Mr Swann to seek legal advice on how to lift “now unnecessary restrictions” and “replace the bulk of the remaining restrictions, if not all of them, with clear guidance and advice”.
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