Plan B: Working from home back and Covid passports needed for big events, PM announces

Government will also extend mandatory mask-wearing for cinemas and theatres

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 08 December 2021 19:07
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Boris Johnson announces return to home working and Covid passports for big events

Boris Johnson has announced the government will implement its “plan B” for England with the introduction of Covid passports for large venues and guidance for the public to work from home from Monday.

The prime minister’s decision to ramp up restrictions — after a meeting of the government’s Covid operations committee — comes in response to concerns over the transmissibility of the omicron variant and spread around the world.

He also announced the mandatory wearing of face masks will be extended to cinemas and theatres after they were reintroduced a fortnight ago for public transport and shops, but exemptions will be included for eating, drinking and exercising.

However, in a move that risked sparking confusion with work from home guidance, Mr Johnson reiterated his previous stance that Christmas parties should not be cancelled and urged everyone to “exercise due caution”, including testing before such events.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson said: “We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home.

“Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can. Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.

“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) stressed the measure had played an “important role in preventing sustained epidemic growth” in the months before Covid restrictions were released.

In a move that will dismay some Conservative MPs, Mr Johnson also told the public that the NHS Covid pass will be made mandatory in England in a week’s time for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.

These will include unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

“The NHS Covid pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out,” the prime minister said.

“And having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.

“As we set out in plan B, we will give businesses a week’s notice, so this will come into force in a week’s time, helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others.”

In a sign of the backlash the prime minister faces, immediately after his announcement, the Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, posted on social media: “There is no evidence that vaccine passports stop the spread of Covid. I didn’t vote for them at Holyrood and I won’t be voting for them at Westminster.”

On the spread of the virus, 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.”

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.”

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