Is England an outlier in abandoning Covid isolation rule?

How does England’s move to end self-isolation compare with rules in other European countries?

Boris Johnson has announced plans to abolish the legal requirement for people in England to self-isolate, even if they test positive for the coronavirus and have symptoms.

The move, planned for later this month, would represent “an important step for this country as we move out of the pandemic”, said the prime minister’s spokesperson. “It shows that the hard work of the British people is paying off.”

Throughout the pandemic, the UK government has often forged its own path out of step with its neighbours. Is Johnson’s latest move continuing England’s outlier position? In a way, yes. Many other countries plan to continue to enforce self-isolation and quarantine with penalties and fines.

Still, England joins other European countries that are easing Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates drop and Omicron is shown to be less severe compared to previous variants.

On Wednesday, the Czech Republic said people no longer have to show a vaccination certificate to enter bars, restaurants and cafes.

And while the World Health Organization suggests that people who test positive should isolate for 14 days, many governments have cut isolation periods.

Countries such as Germany and France have a 10-day isolation period in place, although in France, that can be reduced to five days with a negative test. Russia’s isolation period is now seven days.

The UK recently cut the minimum time people with Covid in England have to spend in self-isolation to five days. In the US, health officials have also halved the isolation time for people with asymptomatic Covid from 10 to five days.

Denmark appears to have some of the most relaxed isolation rules at present, with people allowed to leave the house four days after they test positive, providing they no longer have symptoms.

The change in England will be a technical legal issue. Under the proposed rules, Covid will be treated in a similar way to flu, with guidance to stay at home but no penalties for going to shops, work or school.

In several countries, including Sweden, isolation has been largely treated this way throughout the pandemic – as guidance and recommendations rather than law.

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