New Government measures come into effect in England today (Monday, December 13) in a bid to slow the transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Known as ‘Plan B’, the measures were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week after a surge of Omicron cases have been seen in England over the past few weeks.
From today, people in England are being asked to work from home where possible.
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From Wednesday (December 15), Covid passports will be introduced in nightclubs and other settings where large numbers of people gather.
This follows measures that came into force on Friday December 10 making face masks compulsory in most public indoor venues, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship, once more.
(Image: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire)
Parliament will vote on the measures tomorrow (December 14) and are expected to review the restrictions on January 5.
Announcing the Plan B measures last week, the Prime Minister said: “We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home.
“Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can.
“Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.
“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission.”
In addition to the changes in Covid restrictions, the Government has expanded the vaccine booster campaign, opening it up to those over the age of 18 who had their second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago.
From Wednesday, all those who are eligible will be able to book slots or walk into clinics as part of the Government’s effort to vaccinate as many people as possible before January 1.
The change to Covid restrictions comes as the UK’s Covid alert level was raised in response to the rapid increase in cases stemming from the Omicron variant.
The alert level was raised to Level 4 for the first time since February on the advice of the country’s four chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director.
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According to Government guidance, increasing the UK Covid alert level to Level 4 means the epidemic is “in general circulation, transmission is high and direct Covid-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising”.
In a joint statement, the CMOs and NHS England’s Professor Stephen Powis said the emergence of Omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services”.
They added: “Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.
“Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.”
When the UK was at Level 4 in February, schools were closed, household mixing was banned, the public was asked to work from home and pubs, cafes and restaurants were banned from serving people indoors.
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