England drops Plan B Covid restrictions including face mask rules

The move means the end of mandatory Covid passes and face masks

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Covid Plan B restrictions in England will be lifted from January 27, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.

The move means the end of mandatory Covid passes in England, face mask use and work from home guidance. Restrictions on care homes will also be eased. Individual businesses will be allowed to keep Covid passes if they choose to.

Schools will be able to drop the face mask from Thursday, January 20, prompting a scream of joy from Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne.

"Having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse the Government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere," Mr Johnson said.

"From tomorrow, we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas."

A legal requirement for people with coronavirus to self-isolate will also be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.

Mr Johnson called the pandemic the biggest crisis since the Second World War.

He announced England would return to Plan A after saying "our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally".

"Infection levels are falling in England and while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally," he said.

"So, this morning, the Cabinet concluded that because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire.

"As a result, from the start of Thursday next week mandatory certification will end. Organisations can, of course, choose to use the NHS Covid pass voluntarily but we will end the compulsory use of Covid status certification in England."

Mr Johnson said the country took a balanced approach that did not shut down more of the economy.

“We delivered the fastest booster programme in Europe,” he said.

“Time and again this government got the toughest decisions right."

Updated: January 20, 2022, 4:41 AM