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Covid-19: Relaxed new rules to replace the Plan B in England

The government’s Plan B restrictions are set to cease and the guidelines to revert to a set of less stringent new rules from Thursday, 27 January.

The restrictions that were introduced in December of last year in response to the upsurge in Omicron cases are set to end on 27 January.

Family Enjoying the New Rules in England

England’s new rules

Once the Plan B rules are lifted, the new guidelines will encompass the following:

  • Wearing masks will no longer be mandatory when visiting public spaces. Although no longer enforced, mask-wearing will still be ‘recommended’ during visits to certain places. Nevertheless, wearing a mask will remain compulsory when using London’s TfL services.
  • The compulsory requirement of presenting Covid passports when seeking entry to public events and venues will be ceased. Covid passports in the form of NHS passes evidence individuals’ Covid status like vaccination, recent Covid test results, etc. However, it will remain up to organisations to choose whether they want attendees to present the NHS pass for entry.
  • The advice to work from home where possible will no longer remain relevant. Instead, employees are urged to discuss with their employers regarding return to the office.
  • Care home visit restrictions will be relaxed.

However, one of the policies that will not change is the rule to self-isolate on receiving a positive result from a COVID-19 test like PCR or rapid antigen tests.

The government’s reasons behind the new rules

According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the only reason England is able to return to Plan A is due to the booster jabs and everyone following the Plan B restrictions.

Recent data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that receiving a booster shot helps prevent hospitalisation due to a COVID-19 infection by 89% and is also 65%-75% effective in thwarting symptoms during an infection. According to the data, the effectiveness of the booster jabs comes into play two weeks after being administered.

The PM has stated that scientists believe that the wave of infections caused by the Omicron wave has peaked on a national level.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has said at a Downing Street press conference, ‘This is a moment we can all be proud of.

‘It’s a reminder of what this country can accomplish when we all work together.’

In a press release, the health secretary has also gone on to state: ‘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.

‘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.’

In the same press release, Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser of UKHSA, has said: ‘The recent decline in community case rates and individuals requiring hospitalisation is encouraging and it’s thanks to the public, who have taken up vaccination and followed the Plan B measures closely, that we’ve got to this point.

‘However we should not be complacent. The pandemic is not over yet and we will need to remain cautious to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

‘I encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they can, to continue testing regularly with lateral flow tests – particularly before periods of high risk and before seeing anyone who is vulnerable – and to take a PCR test if they have symptoms.’

PM Boris Johnson has stated that further announcements will be made in regard to the relaxation in Covid travel rules in the coming days. Nonetheless, the current rules will remain in place for the time being.

Fully vaccinated travellers can now take advantage of the more affordable Day 2 Lateral Flow tests after having entered England, while unvaccinated passengers must still take Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests.

 

The latest COVID-19 rules for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland can be found here.

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