UK Cabinet Meeting Has Reportedly Been Pushed Back To This Afternoon
11:07 GMT 21.02.2022 (Updated: 13:00 GMT 21.02.2022)
Earlier, Boris Johnson touted his plan of "living with COVID-19" as instrumental in bringing society "towards a return to normality" after "one of the most difficult periods in our country's history".
A UK cabinet meeting on future COVID-19 strategy has been delayed to later in the day, according to government sources cited by British media.
Earlier, several cabinet ministers were reported to have arrived in Downing Street ahead of the meeting, where UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline his "living with COVID" plan, involving dropping all remaining pandemic restrictions.
Starting in England, the rules around self-isolation when infected with the coronavirus are expected to be lifted, in line with the plan, leaving it up to the devolved administrations to decide whether they do the same or not.
Local authorities will be expected to contain any further outbreaks of the disease with pre-existing legal powers, while free Covid testing for the general public is also expected to be phased out.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed a cabinet meeting on Monday to have a security briefing and to finalise plans for the removal of all of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions, his spokesman said.
"It was postponed until this afternoon so that the prime minister could have both a security briefing and to have further meetings to finalise the plan on living with COVID," the spokesman said.
According to sources citing Number 10, the cabinet meeting was delayed due to a busy morning schedule. According to The Sun, the delay was prompted by the need to resolve some issues between the Department of Health, the finance ministry and Johnson's Downing Street office.
20 February 2022, 05:31 GMT
Later in the day, Boris Johnson is expected to update parliament on his plans, before holding a news conference to reveal the details of the future COVID-19 strategy to the public.
'A Return to Normality'
Speaking before Monday's planned announcement, Johnson insisted his plan would bring society "towards a return to normality" after "one of the most difficult periods in our country's history". He hailed the success of the vaccination programme in the country, saying:
"Today will mark a moment of pride after one of the most difficult periods in our country's history as we begin to learn to live with Covid. The pandemic is not over, but thanks to the incredible vaccine rollout we are now one step closer towards a return to normality and finally giving people back their freedoms while continuing to protect ourselves and others."
The PM's plan has triggered a wave of criticism among the opposition. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told reporters that Johnson's government was "paralysed by its own chaos and incompetence and the British public are paying the price".
"This shambles cannot continue. What confidence can the public have that the Conservatives are acting in the national interest, when they can't agree a plan for COVID? It is clear the prime minister was trying to declare victory before the war is over, simply to distract from the police knocking at the door of Number 10."
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20 February 2022, 14:46 GMT
The Labour Party politician was referring to the so-called “partygate" scandal. Earlier, it was confirmed by Downing Street that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had responded to Scotland Yard's legal questionnaire pertaining to the probe, looking into the 12 purportedly lockdown-breaching parties held at 10 Downing Street between 2020 and 2021.
Health experts have also raised concerns regarding the proposed plans to ditch restrictions. Robert West, a health psychologist at University College London and member of one of the government's independent scientific advisory groups, weighed in on the "irresponsible" plans.
"In lifting all these protections, there will be an increase in cases. And there will be an increase in hospitalisations and deaths," he stated on Times Radio
As for the UK's devolved nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set their own health policies, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford, of the Labour party, was quoted by the UK media as saying:
"In Wales, we'll continue to make decisions to protect the health of people based on the scientific evidence available to us."