Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to bring in tough new coronavirus restrictions soon as the country battles the heavily-mutated Omicron Covid-19 variant.
It is widely speculated that ‘Plan B’ rules might be put in place across England in a matter of days – just weeks before Christmas.
Plan B is the moniker given to the next level of restrictions, which the government put together in the instance of a spike in coronavirus cases.
So what exactly are the Plan B rules that could be introduced?
What rules would change under Plan B?
England’s approach to fighting Covid-19 currently focuses on vaccinating the nation – known as ‘Plan A’.
Plan A measures include the rollout of booster vaccines, the continuation of NHS Test and Trace, and encouraging regular Covid-19 tests.
However, in light of recent developments, speculation over Plan B is once again high.
The current Plan B rules laid out on the government website are subject to change if Downing Street decides that tougher restrictions are necessary.
As it currently stands, the new measures that could be imposed include the following:
While ministers previously ditched proposals to introduce mandatory vaccine passports, the government has been holding the idea ‘in reserve’.
They would be used under Plan B in a ‘limited number of settings, with specific characteristics’, including nightclubs and crowded indoor venues with more than 500 attendees.
Vaccine certification would also be applied to outdoor crowded settings with more than 4,000 people and any venue with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sports stadiums.
Vaccine passports have already been implemented in Scotland and Wales.
Working from home
Advice for people to work from home if they can was dropped after July 19, leaving it to employers to decide.
But the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said working from home is ‘one of the most effective measures available at reducing (Covid-19) contacts’.
The old guidance could be reintroduced in a bid to prevent coronavirus infections.
The government said this would depend on the latest data, as they would need to look at ‘the extra disruption this causes to individuals and businesses’.
On November 29, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to work from home when possible.
On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon also encouraged people to take lateral flow tests before leaving the house, even just to go to the pub or pop to the shops.
Wearing face masks
Mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport was dropped in England on July 19 – dubbed at the time as ‘Freedom Day’.
This has now been brought back amid concerns over the spread of Omicron, with face masks once again mandatory in shops and on public transport, but not in hospitality settings.
Announcing the changes, Boris Johnson said: ‘As always we must stress with a new variant there are many things that we just cannot know at this early stage.
‘But our scientists are learning more hour by hour and it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.
‘There is also a very extensive mutation which means it diverges quite significantly from previous configurations of the virus.
‘As a result it might in part reduces the protection of our vaccines over time so we need to take targeted and proportionate measures now as a precaution while we find out more and first we need to slow down the seeding of this variant in our country.
It is worth noting that Plan B restrictions only apply to England. The rest of the UK dictate their own coronavirus rules and safety measures.
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