Plan B Covid-19 restrictions are due to come into force due to the rise in the Omicron Covid variant, the Prime Minister has announced tonight.
Among the measures being introduced are:
- guidance to work from home will be reintroduced for those who can do so from Monday
- from this Friday, mandatory masks will be extended to most public venues, including theatres and cinemas
- from next week, the NHS Covid pass will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where larger crowds gather
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it is now “proportionate and responsible” to move to Plan B measures in England.
From Friday the legal requirement to wear a face mask will be extended in England to most indoor public venues, such as cinemas and theatres – although there will be exemptions for things such as eating, the PM says.
Covid passes will become mandatory for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather in England.
This will include unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 5,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
He says two doses will be sufficient for a Covid pass, but this will be kept under review as boosters are rolled out.
A negative lateral flow will also be acceptable.
As Omicron spreads in the community, daily tests will be introduced instead of isolation to “minimise the disruption to daily life” the prime minister says.
“But the single biggest thing that everyone of us can do is to get our jabs and crucially to get that booster as soon as our turn arrives,” he says.
He says NHS staff and volunteers have already done almost 21 million boosters but says “we need to go further and faster still” because scientists are confident immune response will be stronger with a booster.
As we learn more about the Omicron variant, the prime minister says, the government will be guided by four key factors:
- the efficacy of vaccines
- the severity of Omicron
- the speed of its spread
- the rate of hospitalisations
“We must be humble in the face of this virus,” Boris Johnson said.
He says as soon as it becomes clear that boosters are capable of holding the Omicron variant “then we will be able to move forward as before”.
“By reducing your contacts in the workplace you will slow transmission,” he says.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the UK is “working night and day” to understand more about the Omicron variant.
He says Omicron is “significantly more” transmissible than the Delta variant and analysis suggests it is taking 2.5 to 3 days for cases of the variant to double.
UKHSA has published update on Omicron risk assessment, S gene target failure and local case numbers
The assessment suggests that Omicron is displaying a significant growth advantage over Delta, meaning that it is likely to outcompete Delta in the UK and become the dominant variant.
This assessment is based on analysis of UK data showing increased household transmission risk, increased secondary attack rates (such as the chance of each case infecting another individual) and increased growth rates compared to Delta.
If the growth rate and doubling time continue at the rate we have seen in the last 2 weeks, we can expect to see at least 50% of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases to be caused by Omicron variant in the next 2 to 4 weeks.