Will Britain become “one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic”?
I ask the question. A British cabinet minister made the statement.
Raising the prospect of a further cut to the isolation period for people who test positive for Covid-19, Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi told Sky’s Trevor Phillips: “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 five, six, seven, 10 years”.
Mr Zahawi added that reducing the self-isolation period to five days from seven “would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others”. He did, however, emphasise that he (and presumably the rest of Boris Johnson’s cabinet) would defer to scientific advice.
So what’s this all about?
Britain recently relaxed testing requirements for people entering the country. There are reports that the government is mulling an end to the costly lateral flow test free-for-all. A senior Whitehall source told the Sunday Times: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody for evermore.” Quite so, even though Mr Zahawi has denied the scrapping of free tests was under serious consideration.
That said, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine task force Clive Dix has also been calling for the coronavirus to be regarded as an endemic virus similar to the flu or common cold. Mr Dix suggested that the mass-vaccination campaign should be rolled up after booster shots are delivered.
It does seem that Britain is moving inexorably from pandemic alert to endemic business as usual.
But Mr Zahawi also threw in a few caveats. He said Britain still had to be “careful as to whether we move” on the reduced isolation period.
Caveats or not, the British government’s direction of travel is becoming clearer by the day.