The NHS Test and Trace system will be made more “proportionate”, Sajid Javid has promised, with double-vaccinated contacts expected to be spared the need to self-isolate.
The Health Secretary will update MPs on the latest plans for easing restrictions after Boris Johnson promised the wholesale lifting of coronavirus rules in England.
Mr Javid will use his Commons statement to set out how the contact tracing system will operate in future, saying it is “absolutely right” that for people who have received both vaccination doses “we can take a different approach”.
Reports last week suggested ministers intend to drop all legal requirements on those who have had both jabs if they encounter a confirmed case, with advice for them to take a daily test but no compulsion to do so.
Mr Javid also told MPs on Monday that ministers would set out “how we intend to exempt under-18s who are close contacts from the requirement to self-isolate”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will also make a statement in the Commons on plans to replace the requirement for entire school bubbles to isolate after a positive Covid contact with enhanced testing.
Hinting at the announcements, Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast: “We will have a more proportionate system of test, trace and isolate, and it is absolutely right that (for) those that have been double jabbed, that we can take a different approach than the one we take today.
“In terms of what we will be doing exactly, you will have to wait for my statement to Parliament later today.”
The announcements follow Mr Johnson’s gamble on trusting the wall of immunity provided by vaccines and the judgment of the English public once legal restrictions are lifted – expected on July 19.
The Prime Minister acknowledged there may be 50,000 new cases a day by that point but insisted that if legal limits on gatherings and laws requiring the wearing of masks were not lifted this summer they may have to remain in place for another year.
Mr Javid suggested cases could rise to more than 100,000 a day in the summer as restrictions are eased.
“But what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers, and that is where the link has been severely weakened,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Labour criticised the Government’s plan as “reckless” and called for ministers to maintain protections such as mask wearing.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said the lifting of coronavirus restrictions is a “calculated risk”.
He told Times Radio: “We do have good data now that does indicate we are gradually breaking the links in the chain between community cases and severe cases in hospital.”
He went on to say: “I should point out, looking at the data last night, 88% of people in hospital, from what I could see, had not been vaccinated or had had the vaccine but hadn’t had the chance to develop immunity, so that’s within 28 days of the vaccine.
“There’s now an incredibly strong signal that the vaccination is working and protecting the vast majority of people.”
Another government adviser, Professor Neil Ferguson, said he expected the number of daily cases to rise above the 50,000 suggested by the Prime Minister but the impact of the vaccines would keep deaths far lower than in previous waves.
“What we do know is in the second wave there was a certain ratio between cases and hospitalisations and that ratio right now is being reduced by more than two-thirds, as we get more second doses into people it will go down even further,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“Even more positively, the ratio which we saw in the past between case numbers and deaths has been reduced by more like eight to 10-fold.
“So the third wave, even if the number of cases per day gets very high, we’re still likely to see lower numbers of hospitalisations and deaths than we saw back in December and January just gone.”