Prime Minister Johnson held a news conference earlier when he announced new measures to be introduced in the coming days.
He said it is now “proportionate and responsible” to move to Plan B measures in England as there are fears that the Omicron variant could be more infectious and less responsive to vaccines.
There are concerns that hospital admissions could hit 1000 per day by the end of the year.
The PM said that the government will be guided by four key factors:
- the efficacy of vaccines
- the severity of Omicron
- the speed of its spread
- the rate of hospitalisations
Plan B Measures:
- From Friday 10 December: Face masks will be compulsory in most public venues.
- From Monday 13 December: Guidance to work from home will be reintroduced for those who can do so.
- From next week: the NHS Covid passport will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where larger crowds gather.
- Self-isolation will be replaced by daily testing.
Regarding nightclubs and other venues, this will include unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people in attendance, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people in attendance. The PM said that there will be exemptions for things such as eating.
The Plan B guidance has been introduced following scientists’ fears that Omicron hospital admissions could reach at least 1,000 a day if restrictions aren’t toughened.
Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said that “the data here is now clear, Omicron is going up incredibly fast.”
He said that the new measures were being introduced to “slow things down.” He added that Omicron could go from “very small numbers to very large numbers quickly”, and that the Omicron variant would not be expected to impact on hospital admissions for about two or three weeks.
Sir Patrick Vallance said that Plan B will “only work if we all do it.”
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, reacting to the Prime Minister’s press conference said, “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the Government is devastating news for nightlife sector.”
Mr Kill said that vaccine Passports have a “damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses.” He said that where they have been implemented in Scotland and Wales, trade is down 30% and 26% respectively.
Mr Kill concluded by saying, “And of course these businesses, who have already sacrificed so much during the pandemic, will be asking – ‘why are we being asked to carry more of the burden when it seemed that the most senior Government officials felt they didn’t need to do their bit?’”
During the news conference, the PM said that it was important that people get their booster jabs. Pfizer and BioNTech have said that booster jabs of their vaccine is showing signs of being an effective defence against the Omicron variant, the most heavily mutated version of coronavirus found so far.
Today marks the first anniversary of the COVID-19 Vaccination Centre at Clatterbridge Hospital and the national COVID-19 vaccination programme. Staff have delivered over 122,000 COVID-19 vaccinations at the centre over the past year.
The booster campaign is being stepped up:
- Booster jabs are to be offered to all over-18s
- The gap between the second dose and the booster jab will be reduced from six months to three months
- People with weakened immune systems will be offered a second booster (their fourth dose) no sooner than three months after their third jab.
- Children aged 12 to 15 are to be invited for a second dose, three months after their first