Ministers are expected to agree that the fully vaccinated will not only be exempt from having to stay at home for ten days – but will only be “advised” to take daily tests, with no legal requirement to do so.
The change would bring England into line with countries such as the US and Germany, amid a warning that up to a million people a day will be forced into quarantine unless rules are relaxed.
But a leading public health expert said those rules were “slowing infections” and urged ministers not to abandon daily testing, if isolation for fully vaccinated people is scrapped.
“The midway proposal is the daily testing of contacts,” said Christophe Fraser, professor of pathogen dynamics at the University of Oxford.
“So, when you receive the close contact notification – the one that says you have been close to somebody for an extended period of time – the possibility being looked at is you would take a test for 7 days after you have been pinged by the app.
“That would be a very promising way to reduce the amount of disruption for people.”
Official estimates suggest that infections will increase by as much as 26 per cent if both restrictions are axed, according to The Times which reported it.
Government scientific advisers have also warned that most people will refuse to take daily tests, which means compliance with quarantine guidance will go “out the window”, it said.
Professor Fraser told BBC Radio 4: “Yes, we are seeing a break of the link between infections and hospitalisations, but we are also seeing some young people, unfortunately, being hospitalised and being quite seriously ill.”
And Stephen Griffin, a viral oncologist at the University of Leeds, told The Times: “Lateral flow tests are not enough to absolve you from quarantine.”
Nevertheless, the plan for no isolation and only “advisory” tests is expected to be signed off at a meeting of the Covid operations committee on Monday.
It would get underway towards the end of August – with the government willing to accept the risks of higher infections to ease disruption for businesses and public services.
It must first wait for results from a current trial where 40,000 people are being asked to take daily tests instead of self-isolating.
Hospitality businesses want the rules changed more urgently, to avoid summer holidays being ruined by hundreds of thousands of people a day being told to isolate each day.
At present, the test and trace system is telling an average of three contacts of each case to isolate – but that number is expected to increase if all restrictions in society are lifted on 19 July.