Boris Johnson’s Plan B includes a raft of new measures to tackle rising Omicron cases in England, with the NHS Covid Pass becoming mandatory for nightclubs and masks must now be worn in most public indoor settings
Boris Johnson has introduced a new set of Covid rules in the run-up to Christmas in a bid to tackle the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
New cases involving the strain are said to be doubling every two to three days and it is on track to become the dominant variant as soon as Christmas, experts say.
Masks were already mandatory in some places, such as shops, supermarkets and on public transport, before Mr Johnson announced his ‘Plan B’ on Wednesday.
Under the new measures, face coverings must now be worn in England in cinemas, hairdressers, theatres, places of worship, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo studios and some other settings.
The NHS Covid Pass will be required for entry to nightclubs and venues with large crowds inside.
People in England are also being advised to work from home if they can as part of a bid to drive down coronavirus cases.
However, the good news is that families will still be able to come together for Christmas dinner and friends can gather at the pub for a festive drink.
What are the new rules?
From December 10, face coverings must be worn in most public indoor settings in England, including cinemas, hairdressers, theatres and places of worship.
It will also become the law to wear them in nail salons, massage centres, tattoo studios, pharmacies, vets, auction houses, retail galleries, takeaways (if people don’t eat on site), estate and lettings agents, high street solicitors, accountants and during driving tests and lessons,
Under Plan B, the NHS Covid Pass will also become a requirement for entry to nightclubs and venues with large crowds inside from December 15.
This includes unseated indoor events with 500 or more people and unseated outdoor venues with 4,000 or more individuals present.
New rules also say any contact of a suspected Omicron case must isolate for 10 days.
How is this different from the existing rules?
Since November 28, it has been mandatory to wear masks in shops, supermarkets and on public transport but this rule has now been extended.
The Prime Minister did not add any additional travel rules, although these were tightened last month.
Arrivals in the UK from anywhere in the world are now forced to take a paid-for PCR test within 48 hours of their arrival.
They must also isolate until the result comes back negative.
Since December 7, people flying back to the UK are also required to take another pre-departure test before they board their flight.
The NHS Covid Pass rule for nightclubs is also a shift, with people previously able to show a negative test to enter.
Can I still go to the pub and enjoy Christmas dinner with my family?
Yes, pubs will remain open under the plans and you will be able to meet your loved ones for Christmas dinner.
There is no indication that the Rule of Six will return, meaning there are no limits on social gatherings inside or outside.
Boris Johnson rejected the suggestion that festive parties and nativity plays should be cancelled during Wednesday’s Downing Street press conference.
It means parties are allowed but office work is discouraged.
Last Christmas the rules looked very different, with a tiered system of restrictions in place across England.
People were told to stay at home in London, south-east and east England as they were placed in Tier 4.
Households in other parts of the country were allowed to mix on December 25, although long-distance travel was discouraged.
This year it looks like the rules will not be as strict, although the Prime Minister has refused to rule out a Christmas lockdown so there is still a chance things could change.
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When will Plan B end?
The measures announced on Wednesday will be reviewed on January 5 and the government will update Parliament.
Regulations will then “sunset” on January 26, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs.
But both of these days could be brought forward or pushed back so they’re not actually massively relevant.
We can glean some information from the criteria for triggering Plan B in the first place.
The government will likely base its decision to lift restrictions on; the state of the NHS, the link between hospitalisation and infections, vaccine efficacy and immunity, and the impact of new variants.