BORIS Johnson’s plan to wind down coronavirus safety measures in England could leave the UK “driving blind” in the pandemic, a Scots expert has warned.

Professor Linda Bauld, the Scottish Government’s interim chief social policy adviser, spoke before the Prime Minister unveiled his “living with Covid” strategy in the Commons on Monday.

The UK Government is planning to scrap the legal duty in England for those who test positive for coronavirus to have to self-isolate by the end of the week. According to the Mail On Sunday, the requirement will be lifted by Thursday.

The newspaper said the Prime Minister will set out a timetable for scaling back the availability of free coronavirus tests – although older and vulnerable people will continue to have access to them, it reported.

Bauld, speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland, is one of several leading public health experts to raise concerns about the plan, while devolved leaders have complained of a lack of consultation from Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on her plan for living with Covid at Holyrood on Tuesday.

The National:

Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, warned that community transmission of coronavirus remains high, with one in 25 Scots identified as having the disease in the latest figures.

She said: “A number of countries around the world have been easing their protective measures and I imagine that is what we're likely going to hear in England today.

“The levels of infection in the community are still high in England, you've got one in 20, in Scotland, one in 25, and we still need the capacity to be able to identify when there is virus in the community.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's plan to 'save his skin' by axing Covid rules could 'imperil' Scotland

She added: “On self-isolation, there's a little bit of confusion because it's always different around the UK, for example, in England, there are legal requirements to self-isolate, and if you don't do that when contacted by test and trace, you could face quite a hefty fine.

“In Scotland, it is strong guidance, backed up by legal requirements when returning from international travel. We just need to separate out that removing the fines and the legality in England with the fact that people in England, still may be receiving strong advice to isolate, particularly if they have symptoms.”

The professor stressed the need for universal testing to remain in place, warning that Johnson’s plans could leave scientists unable to track new outbreaks and variants.

The National: Public health expert professor Linda Bauld Public health expert professor Linda Bauld

“I think we do need access to ongoing free testing, particularly PCR for some groups, and those would be those that are more vulnerable, those that need treatments,” Bauld explained. “We are going to need to know if staff in care homes and healthcare settings have this virus, so even rapid testing for them may still be needed.

“So I think certainly a removal of all testing means we'll be sort of driving blind into the next stage of the pandemic and that's something we want to avoid.”

She continued: “In order to pick up variants, you need to sequence a sample and we can do that through PCR tests, but if you remove testing, then you can't do that. So the key thing for me is actually surveillance.

“Even though we seem to be coming out of this Omicron wave we need the ONS infection survey or version of it to see how much infection is there in the community, we may need wastewater testing, which has real promise as an early warning programme and then we need some testing so that we can look at those variants and that will give us the evidence, the basis to be able to plan ahead.”

Speaking before his announcement, the Prime Minister insisted Monday would “mark a moment of pride” as he hailed the prospect of “finally giving people back their freedom”.

The announcement will come just 24 hours after it was confirmed the Queen had tested positive for coronavirus. Commons Committee chair Caroline Nokes told Times Radio the announcement “makes it tricky” for the UK Government to end all restrictions this week, adding: "But we have to strike a balance."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested the Prime Minister’s plan was part of a strategy to win back the support of disillusioned Tory MPs.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's The Sunday Show: "We can't be put into a situation where our health is being imperilled by the decisions that Boris Johnson may be making to save his own political skin.”