With the appearance of the Omicron variant of coronavirus forcing more and more nations to rethink their winter Covid strategies, England has become the latest country to follow suit and impose more restrictions. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference this evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spelled out the spread of Omicron, and stated that “it’s now the proportionate and responsible thing to move to Plan B”. That includes a return to working from home, vaccine passports needed for larger venues, and more indoor venues where mask wearing will be required.
Johnson said that “it’s becoming increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster”, with 584 cases already confirmed in the UK, leading to this new round of restrictions. Here are the key points from Plan B:
Working from home
The government is reintroducing the guidance to work from home in England, beginning on Monday (December 12). Employers are being asked to make it as easy as possible for their employees to work from home.
New guidance on mask wearing
Wearing masks in certain places had already been announced, but Plan B will ask us to wear them in even more venues. Johnson revealed that from Friday (December 10), the government will be extending the legal requirement to most indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas. However, they won’t yet be mandated for people eating, drinking, exercising, or singing indoors.
Mandatory Covid passes for large venues
From next Wednesday (December 14), you’ll need to display a record of your vaccination status, or a negative lateral flow test result, to enter certain venues. Johnson revealed that unseated indoor venues with a capacity of over 500, outdoor unseated venues with a capacity of 5000, and any venues over 10,000 (so think football stadiums for this), will be required to follow this rule. Two doses of the vaccine will be sufficient for a Covid pass, although Johnson didn’t rule out the future possibility of requiring a booster jab for this as well.
A meeting of the Covid Operations Committee was held earlier today (Wednesday, December 8) to discuss the potential of moving to ‘Plan B’, which is the government’s autumn and winter contingency plan to try and control the spread of the virus. Now it’s coming into effect, Johnson asked everyone in the UK to “play your part and get boosted” as soon as you can.
The news comes on the same day that Johnson was forced to deny claims that Downing Street officials had held a Christmas party last December, days before announcing that the rules for Christmas gatherings would be tightened. Though this Christmas is currently expected to proceed without the same level of Covid restrictions as last, the new Plan B measures mean that it won’t be an entirely normal Christmas just yet.
This is a breaking news update that will be updated as the story develops.