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Covid Plan B rules to end as Omicron wave has 'peaked nationally', Boris Johnson confirms

Rules on face coverings and work from home guidance to end as Covid-19 Plan B scrapped

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 1:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 1:38 pm

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“Plan B” Covid rules are set to be scrapped in England, despite stubbornly high case rates in the North East.

The Prime Minister has confirmed existing regulations on facemasks and NHS passes will be dropped, following data which suggested “the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally”.

Instead, the public will be urged to be “careful and considerate of others”, but warnings remain that the pandemic is not yet over.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures whilst speaking at a press conference in London's Downing Street after ministers met to consider imposing new restrictions in response to rising cases and the spread of the Omicron variant. Picture date: Wednesday December 8, 2021.

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“[The] latest ONS data show clearly that infection levels are falling in England,” Boris Johnson told the House of Commons.

“There remain, of course, significant pressures on the NHS across our country, especially in the North East and North West, but hospital admissions, which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago, have now stabilised.

“The numbers in intensive care not only remain low, but are actually also falling.

“So this morning, the cabinet concluded that, because of the extraordinary booster campaign and together with the way the public have responded to the plan B measures, we could return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire.”

The Prime Minister’s announcement means from tomorrow (Thursday, January 20), pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in classrooms, with guidance on their use in school communal areas also expected to be scrapped.

Similarly, rules forcing people to wear facemasks “anywhere” will also end next week, although advice will continue to recommend their use in “enclosed or crowded spaces”.

Mandatory use of the NHS Covid pass will also be dropped, although organisations and venues will be permitted to continue using it on a voluntary basis.

Work from home guidance will also end.

However, legal requirements to self-isolate following a positive Covid test will remain.

Johnson added 90% of over-60s across the UK have now had a Copvid-19 vaccine booster.

Following the Prime Minister’s statement, Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party would back the changes “as long as the science says that it is safe”.

He added: “The British public have made enormous sacrifices to limit the spread of the virus - staying at home; social-distancing and, unlike the Prime Minister, cancelling parties.”

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