The UK government has announced England will be returning to Plan A on January 27 following the success of the country’s booster programme.
From January 19, the government has stated it will no longer ask people to work from home and, from today, face coverings are no longer advised in schools for both staff and students. By January 27, the government has said face coverings will no longer be required by law in any setting, however, they will continue to be a recommendation in crowded and enclosed spaces.
Additionally, venues and events will no longer be required by law to use the NHS Covid Pass. Locations can still use the pass on a voluntary basis, as was previously the case for Plan A.
“Today marks the start of the next chapter in this country’s fight against covid-19,” said health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, in a statement. “Our plan was to use the time that Plan B gave us to give ourselves extra power in our fight against omicron. That plan has worked, and the data shows that omicron is in retreat.”
He added: “But it’s not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line. The best step that we can all take is to get vaccinated. It was the jabs that have got us this far, and the jabs can keep us here too.”
”It’s not the end of the road…”
The government is continuing to ask the public, employers and local authorities to act cautiously in the move back to Plan A, stating that infection rates are still high despite the softening of restrictions. On December 8, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a move to Plan B following the quick spread of the omicron variant. The decision was detrimental to UK retail over the Christmas period, as shops reported a steep decline in sales due to lack of footfall. Work-from-home recommendations, alongside consumer safety concerns, played a significant part in what is usually considered the peak shopping season for retailers.
The government has said the measures allowed it to assess and control the spread of the new variant as it continued to expand its vaccine booster programme, which it has affirmed is still a priority.
According to a news release, the booster programme has issued 30.5 million boosters across the country. Additionally, the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency shows the booster is 89 percent effective in preventing hospitalisation from covid-19.
For those self-isolating with covid-19, the rule still stands that their isolation can end after five full days, provided they test negative on days five and six. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated can avoid isolation if they continue to test negative daily following contact.