Sajid Javid to hold press conference to discuss changes to Covid restrictions

Grilling follows announcement of relaxation of curbs in England

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 19 January 2022 14:35
Boris Johnson announces end to Plan B Covid restrictions in England

Health secretary Sajid Javid is to hold a press conference at Downing Street at 5pm today to discuss changes to Covid regulations in England, No 10 has announced.

Mr Javid will face questioning shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement that Plan B restrictions will be lifted at midnight on Wednesday evening next week, removing all requirements for Covid passes in sports and entertainment events and face-coverings in public places.

Work from home guidance is lifted immediately and people are no longer encouraged to work remotely if possible.

A meeting of Cabinet agreed this morning that the Plan B rules on Covid passes and face-coverings in place since early December will be lifted from a minute past midnight on 27 January.

Mandatory face-coverings in classrooms will end tomorrow, while they will remain in place in communal areas of schools until next Thursday morning.

“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,” the prime minister told MPs.

“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.

“In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet - but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”

Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson denied that the prime minister was sending Mr Javid to host the press conference in order to avoid exposing himself to questioning from the public and press on the “partygate” row and calls from his own MPs for his resignation.

“The prime minister has been taking questions both in the House and from the media yesterday,” said the spokesperson.

There was no immediate announcement on whether Mr Javid would be joined by scientific and medical experts at this afternoon’s press conference.

Mr Johnson’s announcement was met with audible shouts of delight from his own party’s benches. The PM also confirmed that some Covid measures would stay in place for now, such as on travel, and the legal requirement for a person who tests positive to self-isolate for five days.

But he told MPs that “there will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu” and that this point may be reached before the review date of 24 March.

Mr Johnson’s spokesperson told reporters that the timing of the end of self-isolation would depend on the progress of the virus on a range of different measures, such as infections, hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths.

The spokesperson said that there were signs of hospitalisations “plateauing or declining”.

And he added: “We need to keep the data under review. If the decline continues across a range of metrics, we will be able to move more quickly.”

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