UK introduces Covid Plan B rules including working from home and face mask measures

British prime minister made announcement as part of measures to halt spread of Omicron variant

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Guidance to work from home is to be reintroduced in England as part of measures to halt the spread of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.

From Monday, December 13, everyone who can work from home has been advised to do so. The prime minister has given employers the rest of this week to discuss the new measures with staff.

From Friday, December 10, face masks have been reintroduced to most indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas. Mr Johnson said the mask guidance would include exemptions for when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.

The NHS Covid pass is to be made mandatory in England in a week’s time for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather, Mr Johnson also announced.

The Covid health certificate will apply to unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and outside where there are more than 4,000 people.

The Prime Minister added that the pass can be obtained with a negative lateral flow test or by having had two doses of a vaccine but hinted this could change by saying “we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out”.

Mr Johnson said daily testing would be introduced instead of isolation for those who come into contact with infected people.

“The single biggest thing that every one of us can do is to get our jabs and, crucially, to get that booster as soon as our turn arrives," he said.

“Let’s do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones this winter, and reduce the pressures on our NHS.”

He said the government would “constantly monitor the data” but called on everyone to “play your part” and get a booster vaccine when available.

“As soon as it becomes clear that the boosters are capable of holding this Omicron variant and we have boosted enough people to do that job of keeping Omicron in equilibrium, then we will be able to move forward as before,” the prime minister added.

“It has become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,” he said.

While 568 cases had been confirmed in the UK “the true number is certain to be much higher”.

“Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron could currently be between two and three days.”

Omicron case numbers in the UK could exceed the number of infections in red-listed countries by next week, a leading expert said on Monday.

Prof Tim Spector, founder of the Zoe Covid study app, predicted it would take 10 days for Britain’s Omicron total to pass the figures recorded in the 11 African nations that have had travel restrictions imposed on them.

The professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London believes there are already more than 1,000 undetected Omicron infections in the UK – and predicted that the number would continue to surge over the coming days, based on the current trajectory of cases doubling every 48 hours.

From Tuesday, travellers arriving in England must take a pre-departure antigen or PCR test and a post-arrival PCR two days after entering the country. They will be required to self-isolate until a negative result has been returned to them.

The rules drew a backlash from the travel industry, with many complaining that the move to tougher restrictions is not justified by the data.

The UK has imposed travel restrictions on 11 countries, requiring travellers to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days after arriving. These are South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Omicron is being transmitted in communities, rather than just being linked to international travel.

“The Omicron variant is continuing to spread here and around the world,” Mr Javid said on Monday.

“According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336.

“This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England,” Mr Javid said.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 4:20 PM
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