At his Downing Street press conference last night, Boris Johnson announced that the Government is to implement its Plan B to fight off the Omicron Covid variant.
With a downbeat expression, Mr Johnson warned it was clear the new strain was ‘growing much faster’ than the current dominant Delta strain – and told people to get a test before they went to a Christmas party.
The measures, which will start being implemented from Monday, will see a return of ‘work from home’ guidance, tighter restrictions on wearing face masks in public spaces, and vaccine passports becoming mandatory for nightclubs and larger indoor unseated venues.
The new rules are not set to be reviewed until January 5 – and the law imposing them will not run out until January 26. They include:
At present, masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport. From tomorrow people will have to wear them in theatres, cinemas and places of worship.
They will not have to wear face coverings in pubs and restaurants, even when walking around.
From next Wednesday, people will need an NHS Covid Pass or a negative lateral flow test to gain entry to large venues.
These include nightclubs and indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people. They will also be required for unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, as well as any venue with more than 10,000.
At his Downing Street press conference last night, Boris Johnson announced that the Government is to implement its Plan B to fight off the Omicron Covid variant
Work from home
From Monday the guidance will be changed to tell people to work from home unless they cannot do so.
Boris Johnson said: ‘Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.’
People will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for Covid.
Instead, they will be told to take a lateral flow test every day and then isolate if they test positive. This should ease fears of a new ‘pingdemic’.
Rules on mask wearing are to be extended to cover theatres, cinemas and places of worship (stock photo)
Why do ministers say the new rules are needed?
Sajid Javid said they were required because the country is on course for 1million Omicron cases by the end of the month.
The Health Secretary added that although there were only 568 confirmed cases, the true number is probably around 10,000, and that they are doubling every two to three days.
He said he was ‘confident Omicron is significantly more transmissible than Delta’ and this means the NHS could come under ‘unsustainable pressure’ during a ‘perilous winter’.
How long will this last?
Mr Javid said the new rules will be reviewed in four weeks – on January 5. The law implementing the extra restrictions will run out on January 26.
How will it hit the economy?
Experts said the new restrictions could cost the economy £4billion a month.
The Institute for Economic Affairs said they could ‘easily’ knock 2 per cent off the size of the economy.
The Prime Minister is looking to ramp up the rollout of the Covid booster programme. He said booster jabs are likely to be enough to fight off the threat of the Omicron variant (stock photo)
In good news, the Prime Minister said booster jabs are likely to be enough to fight off the threat of the Omicron variant.
He added there is a ‘strong possibility the combination of two jabs and booster is capable of holding Omicron in equilibrium for as long as we want’.
A study found three doses of the Pfizer vaccine provide the same level of antibody protection against the variant as two doses did against the original virus.
New hope on anti-viral pills
Ministers said thousands of lives will be saved this winter by two ‘game-changing’ new Covid treatments being rolled out in the NHS.
Vulnerable patients who test positive for the virus will be offered molnupiravir, a pill taken at home twice a day that slashes the risk of death by 30 per cent.
The Government has secured 480,000 courses of the antiviral drug, costing around £500 each. A second treatment called Ronapreve, which cuts deaths by 70 per cent, will also be available.