Boris boost as nearly half back his plans to end all Covid rules early

Iain Duncan Smith 'completely in favour' of ending Covid rules

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The poll of 1,000 adults by Survation has shown that 49 percent support the Prime Minister’s announcement to end all restrictions a month early. The move means ‘freedom day’ is likely to be February 24. Just 31 percent of those surveyed by Prenetics, a leading UK testing and diagnostics organisation, opposed the move. But the results also revealed that adults by a margin of two to one want the country to maintain the ability for people to self-test until covid is endemic in the population.

The results mark a shift in public attitudes with previous polls showing support for continuing restrictions.

Conservative MPs who have questioned the Government’s strategy said that the poll underlined that people want to take responsibility for their own lives and not to be told what to do by the Government.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee which represents Tory backbench MPs, said: “These poll results confirm what the experience of the last two years have shown, people are happy to take responsibility for themselves and others without intrusive and heavy-handed rules and regulations. 

“Sweden relied on people’s judgement and common sense, without damaging lockdowns or school closures – Britain should have done the same.”

Miriam Cates, a former teacher who now represents Penistone and Stocksbridge, said: “After nearly two years of intense focus on Covid case numbers it’s easy to forget that infections like coughs and colds are a normal part of life, especially in the winter. 

“Now that the majority of people are vaccinated and the mild omicron variant is the dominant strain, Covid is no more serious than many other ‘normal’ viruses and we can see this in the data. 

“Deaths from all causes are below average for this time of year and deaths due to covid make up a small fraction of this number. In light of this, forcing people to stay at home when they are well enough to be at school or work no longer makes any sense for our health or our economy. It’s time to get back to normal and that means trusting people to take responsibility for their own lives.”

Shipley MP Philip Davies added: “I am very pleased to see strong public support for a return to individual freedom and individual responsibility with regards to covid measures. It is just a shame that it wasn’t the path the government pursued throughout.”

Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist from Nottingham Trent university, welcomed the end of restrictions, but said that alone would not be enough to allay people’s fears.

He said: “The removal of restrictions is a timely next step towards treating Covid-19 as just one more respiratory virus among the 30 or so that routinely infect humans. 

“There are still potential issues about maintaining the present level of population immunity but there is no reason to have rules that would never have been thought necessary in even a bad flu year. Restrictions have not been particularly effective. They would not have been recommended if SAGE had consulted people who had actually done research on law, regulation and compliance. Now they are just perpetuating fear and anxiety. “

“I have two significant concerns.

“First, that the ONS infection survey may be closed down before it is clear what will take its place. The previous system of tracking all respiratory infections had major weaknesses but it did give public health authorities some idea of what infections were out there in the community. That information is still important but we need a system that covers all the viruses, not one that singles out Covid as if it were something special.

|Second, that lifting restrictions will not be enough on its own to mitigate the fear and anxiety that are still scarring many people after the experience of the last two years. We may need a more positive campaign to emphasise the basic safety of social interactions, especially outdoors, and to encourage those people to leave their houses, free their faces and embrace their loved ones.”

In addition to the restrictions, the poll also showed that while 50 percent are concerned about arrivals from high case countries, 63 percent of returning travellers say they will voluntarily self-test despite the removal of the requirement to do so.

Meanwhile, 51 percent think self-testing should be the new normal to keep pressure off the NHS and 47 percent want to extend self-testing into other areas such as STDs and cancer, with only 17 percent against.

Avi Lasarow, chief executive of Prenetics UK, said: “The research shows there is a clear mood now to get on with living our lives, with a managed sense of risk on all our parts, but the government announcement has been welcomed by a majority of the country.  

“The most encouraging news is that so many of us – three quarters – wish to keep testing, often at home, whatever the government rules.  

“Nobody wants to be the super-spreader by chance at a family event or party.  We are seeing the same culture which made drink-driving socially unacceptable now apply with the virus.”

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University said: “It’s not a matter of if but when we end restrictions. The impact of the disease for the vast majority is mild, and with the advent of vaccines and anti-virals, it’s now time to learn to live with the disease.

“The economic costs of continuing with mass testing are unsustainable. The social cost to our well-being is even higher. “To learn to live with covid, we need a targeted approach that protects those most at risk, ensuring  we can keep society open while minimising the impact of the disease.”

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