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All remaining Covid restrictions in England – including the legal rule to self-isolate – could end later this month, Boris Johnson has said.

Under the current rules, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for at least five days.

The current restrictions are due to expire on 24 March.

But Mr Johnson told MPs he expected the last domestic rules would end early as long as the positive trends in the data continued.

He said he intended to return after parliamentary recess – which runs from Thursday to 21 February – to outline the government’s strategy for living with Covid.

“It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid,” Mr Johnson said at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions – including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive – a full month early.”

The law will be replaced with guidance, Downing Street said – and for example people will be urged not to go to work if they have Covid.

Back in January, Mr Johnson said he expected the restrictions would end for good when they expired on 24 March – and hinted they could be abolished sooner.

Downing Street also suggested there could be an update on the remaining travel rules at the same time when Mr Johnson sets out the living with Covid strategy later this month.

Asked if the remaining travel rules would remain in place until the end of March, a spokesman said “we will obviously make a decision when we get to that stage”.

Rules for travellers coming to the UK are already being relaxed on Friday 11 February.

Fully vaccinated people coming to the UK will not need to take any Covid tests, and unvaccinated travellers will not have to isolate but they will have to take tests. Everyone still needs to fill in a passenger locator form.

But people going abroad will still need to follow the rules that apply at their destination – and many UK families are choosing to cancel their half-term holidays to Spain because children over 12 must be jabbed to enter.

Daily Covid cases have been trending steadily downwards since the end of January but remain high, with 68,214 on Wednesday.

A broader survey by the Office for National Statistics suggests that more than one in 20 people in the UK had Covid in the week up to 5 February, slightly more than the previous week.

But reported deaths within 28 days of a positive test are taking longer to fall from their January peak, and are currently averaging over 250 a day, with 276 on Wednesday.

There are signs the high infection rates may be leading to more instances when someone with Covid dies of another cause, however.

In England and Wales, there are about 100 fewer deaths each day where a doctor registered Covid as the main cause of death, compared with the daily reported figure of deaths after a positive test.

In other Covid news, Prof Paul Hunter has said the UK is “past the point” at which vaccinating young healthy children would do any good.

Children aged 12 and over in the UK are currently offered a jab but only vulnerable under-12s are eligible for one.

The UK’s vaccine advisory body the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is reviewing whether to offer all under-12s a jab.

But Prof Hunter from the University of East Anglia told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme infection rates in children were “falling really quickly at the moment”.

“So I think in many ways we’re past the point where vaccines are actually going to make much difference… it’s probably too late because most kids have already had Omicron.”

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