Face masks are currently mandatory by law in England’s shops, supermarkets, gift shops, indoor shopping centres, public transport including taxis and indoor stations, banks and post offices
Boris Johnson has announced new rules which involves tighter mask restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday the Prime Minister said he was implementing ‘Plan B’ which will also see the introduction of Covid vaccine passports and a renewed ‘work from home’ policy.
He said the new rules are coming into force as the doubling time of the new strain could be “between two and three days” – meaning its spread will be rapid.
Face masks have already been mandatory by law in England’s shops, supermarkets, gift shops, indoor shopping centres, public transport including taxis and indoor stations, banks and post offices since November 28.
They are also compulsory at hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing studios.
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You must also wear a face mask during driving tests and lessons – plus at pharmacies, vets, auction houses, retail galleries, takeaways (if people don’t eat on site), estate and lettings agents, high street solicitors and accountants.
Under-12s are exempt and anyone who can’t wear face coverings for medical reasons.
But from Friday they will become mandatory in more venues.
They must be worn in theatres, places of worship, cinemas, public libraries or community premises.
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Those who do not comply can be fined £200 for a first offence (£100 if you pay within two weeks), doubling on each repeat offence up to £6,400. Police will be expected to enforce the rules.
But there are exemptions when you are eating, drinking, singing or exercising so face masks are not mandatory in pubs, restaurants or gyms.
Secondary schools in England were recommended to ask pupils to wear masks in communal areas and corridors at the end of November.
There are reports of talks ongoing about whether to extend this. However there was no immediate announcement.
Under the government’s ‘Plan B’ rules, any contact of a suspected Omicron case will be forced to isolate for 10 days.
Mr Johnson 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.”
However Mr Johnson also said Christmas parties could go ahead but that people should exercise caution.
He said: “It’s OK to keep going with Christmas parties but obviously everybody should exercise due caution, have ventilation, wash your hands, get a test before you go – give everybody else confidence they are going to be meeting somebody who is not contagious.”
It came as the PM “apologised unreservedly” over allegations of a Christmas party held at Downing Street last year when lockdown rules banned social gatherings – but he continued to deny all responsibility.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.