The Prime Minister just gave a statement to the House on the decision to relax all aspects of Plan B Covid restrictions.
He began by reiterating that the decision to introduce Plan B restrictions last year in the face of Omicron was the right one to allow the booster campaign to be carried out. He continued that the Government took this decision against calls from others to introduce a full lockdown, which saw England’s hospitality industry remain open while countries across Europe closed theirs and put significant restrictions on Christmas and New Year gatherings.
ONS data is now showing that infection levels in England are falling, and while there may still be some increases in places like primary schools, the peak has passed. There remains significant pressure on the NHS, especially in the North East and North West, however hospital admissions have stabilised and are falling in London, and ICU admissions remain low and are falling.
Therefore, from Thursday next week (27th January), England will move back to Plan A. This includes an end to mandatory certification (‘vaccine passports’), although businesses can choose to use them voluntarily. The Government will no longer be asking people to work from home and the face mask mandate will come to an end, including in schools. While the Government will no longer mandate any measures, the Prime Minister suggested continued use of face masks in crowded or enclosed spaces, especially around people with Covid, but it will be a personal choice.
On self-isolation, people with Covid will still need to isolate for 5 full days and can be released after 2 negative tests. However, the Government is looking towards a time when this legal requirement will also be removed, with Covid being treated the same as the flu. The legislation enforcing self-isolation will expire on 24th March and will not be renewed. If the data allows, the Prime Minister would like to see a vote in the House to bring that date forward.
The Government is working on a long-term strategy for living with Covid-19 as it becomes endemic by relying on medical advances, especially vaccines. The Prime Minister added that we must remain cautious in the last weeks of winter as the pandemic is not over, and suggested people continue to wash their hands, ventilate closed areas, get tested, and wear a face covering in crowded areas or around people with Covid.