Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron
Millions of people in England are eagerly awaiting the changes to Covid-19 restrictions that will mostly kick in by January 27.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday the looming end of Plan B measures brought in to tackle rising cases as the Omicron variant spread across the country.
For Mr Johnson, the lifting of restrictions is a spot of good news as he reels from the fallout of a scandal involving government office parties that took place during lockdown. He has apologised for missteps during the pandemic but the lockdown parties have angered his party, potentially putting his job at risk
The prime minister said his Cabinet was guided by the science when deciding to lift the Covid-19 restrictions.
What are the important dates?
From January 19, work-from-home rules are lifted, meaning an immediate return to the office or other workplace is allowed.
From January 20, secondary school pupils in classrooms will no longer need to wear face masks.
From January 27, all other face mask rules will be dropped, meaning public transport and shops will be mask-free.
The use of Covid passports for entry into large events will end, but companies can still demand use at individual venues.
Rules on travel are still up in the air. A legal requirement on self-isolation lapses on March 24 but that date could be brought forward.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the city's public transport system will still require passengers to wear masks.
What's happening to the travel rules?
An announcement on easing Covid-19 travel rules will be made “in the next few days”, Mr Johnson said.
He added that people wanting to travel internationally should take the vaccine booster shot.
“We will certainly review testing arrangements for travel and the Health Secretary [Sajid Javid] will be making a statement in the next few days on that,” he said.
“I think it’s very important- that everybody in the country understands that getting your booster, wherever you want to go in the world, getting your booster is going to be a pretty crucial thing to do.”
Downing Street defended the decision not to immediately end post-arrival tests.
“We will review the rules by the end of January,” a government spokesman said.
He continued: “Our expectation is that the vast majority of countries in the world will expect people to be boosted for entry into their country and so it’s vitally important that everyone understands that if you do want to travel this summer, you almost certainly will need to have been boosted.”
What are the rules until then?
People travelling to the UK must pre-book a coronavirus test from a private supplier.
These can be lateral flow tests which typically cost about £19 and must be taken before the end of the second day after arrival.
There have been widespread concerns around the customer service and prices offered by many testing firms listed on the government’s website.
Testing and quarantine requirements have also badly hit airlines and holiday firms as they have put many people off from booking trips.