Covid plan B restrictions set to be scrapped as ministers meet to review rules

Announcement due in parliament later on Wednesday

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 19 January 2022 00:25
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What are the 'Plan B' rules?

Boris Johnson is expected to lift England’s Covid plan B measures after his Cabinet meet on Wednesday morning to review restrictions.

The prime minister is due to make an announcement to parliament afternoon, with mask-wearing and home-working guidance set to be scrapped.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Sajid Javid told MPs he was “cautiously optimistic” that regulations could be “substantially reduced” and that the peak of the Omicron wave had passed.

The rules include mandatory mask wearing in schools and on public transport, as well as working from home where possible. Covid vaccination passes required for entry into England’s nightclubs will also reportedly be axed.

But the government expected to keep in place rules on self-isolation and controls to international travel.

“Eight weeks ago when this house last met for health and social care questions, the world had not even heard of the Omicron variant, yet since then we have seen a third of the UK’s total number of Covid-19 cases recorded,” Mr Javid said in the Commons on Tuesday.

“The action that this government has taken in response to Omicron and the collective efforts of the British people have seen us become the most boosted country in Europe, the most tested country in Europe, and the most antivirals per head in Europe.

“That is why we are the most open country in Europe. I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary."

He added: “Due to these pharmaceutical defences and the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week.”

Around 17,000 patients are still in hospital in England with Covid, and cases are still high, with 94,432 new infections in the 24 hours before 9am on Tuesday. Some 438 deaths were recorded in the same period, with 1,904 in the last seven days.

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, a government spokesperson said a decision on the next steps “remain finely balanced”.

“Plan B was implemented in December to slow the rapid spread of the extremely transmissible Omicron variant, and get more jabs in arms,” they said.

“The Omicron variant continues to pose a significant threat and the pandemic is not over.

“Infections remain high but the latest data is encouraging, with cases beginning to fall. Vaccines remain our best line of defence and we urge people to come forward, to give themselves the best possible protection.”

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