All Covid-19 restrictions are to be lifted in England on 27 January 2022 due to the success of the booster programme
The government announced that the UK will put an end to all the Plan B measures which came into force in December in response to the rise of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
In the latest announcement, the government stated that the work from home order has ended and that people should discuss with their employer about returning to the office and face coverings will no longer be advised in classrooms for both staff and pupils from Thursday 20 January.
From Thursday 27 January, venues and events will no longer be required by law to use the NHS Covid Pass, and face coverings will not be required by law in any setting.
The move comes after the success of the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme which delivered 30.5m jabs in England. Currently, over 90% of people aged 12 and above have received their first dose of the vaccine and over 83% have had their second.
Despite the end to restrictions, the government stated that the prevalence of Covid-19 is still high with over 16,000 people in hospital in England with the infection and that people need to act cautiously as England moves back to plan A.
Businesses have welcomed the news, particularly in the hospitality sector which has seen the most restrictions placed on it over the last two years.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) stated that the announcement was ‘great news’ as England was ‘finally starting to turn the corner on Covid-19’ with UKHospitality describing the return to plan A as ‘a key milestone on the road to recovery for the sector’.
Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality said: ‘This is fantastic news for the hospitality sector, after the critical Christmas trade was laid to waste for the second year running. Lifting the working from home recommendation is a particularly important move as it enables town and city centres, and the businesses that are their lifeblood, to begin their revival and recovery. These businesses will be eagerly looking forward to welcoming their customers back over the coming days and weeks.
‘The end of mandatory certification is also a hugely welcome step, particularly for English nightclubs and those businesses whose trade has been drastically restricted by the measures. Certification had deterred customers from spontaneous visits and severely limited trade. We would now urge the devolved administrations to begin removing these and other conditions at the earliest opportunity.’
The CBI also stated that there was still a ‘job to be done on repairing confidence and demand’.
Matthew Fell, chief policy director, CBI said: ‘There’s a vital need now for greater consistency in how we live with the virus in the longer term. Swinging back and forth between restrictions and normality has been damaging. The government must start to prioritise Covid infrastructure over interventions. That means relying more on free testing, vaccines and anti-virals.’
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has asked people to respect the house rules that individual businesses have in place as many ‘invested thousands in making premises more Covid-19 secure for customers’.
Mike Cherry, national chairman, FSB said:’ ‘We would now urge everyone to get behind small firms – be that on a commute, whilst working from home, online, or in-person – as they work night and day to recover from another incredibly stressful festive season.
‘Small firms and sole traders stand ready to spur our economic recovery from this recession as they did the last. After new import checks took effect this month, however, they are now staring down the barrel of a jobs tax hike, a dividend taxation increase and business rates bills landing in April.’
After the UK’s Chief Medical Officers decided to raise the Covid Alert Level from Level 3 to Level 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a personal appeal calling for people to “get jabbed”.
“A tidal wave of Omicron is coming,” Mr Johnson said as he announced that all adults in England are to be offered a booster jab by the end of the year. The devolved administrations have also agreed to accelerate vaccinations.
Recent data suggests that vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection is substantially reduced against the Omicron variant with just two doses, but a third dose boosts protection back up to over 70%.
From Monday 13 December, adults over 30 will be able to book online through the National Booking System (available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination), and all over 18s will be able to do so from 15 December.
Some walk-in appointments will be available from the earlier date for over 18s, dependent on location. If there are long queues or all slots have been booked, people are encouraged to be patient and keep trying, or to book online.
All primary care services will now focus on urgent clinical need and vaccines and some non-urgent appointments and elective surgeries may be postponed until the New Year while every adult in the country is jabbed, the Prime Minister explained.
He also said that there will be increasing opening times for vaccination sites, to seven days a week with more appointments early in the morning, in the evening and at weekends.
In addition, 50 military planning experts will help co-ordinate the national effort by supporting the NHS with logistics of the rollout.