By Connor Steel
BORIS JOHNSON has announced that England will enter Plan B lockdown restrictions from various dates in an attempt to control rising cases of Covid-19, whilst also ‘buying time’ for scientists to further investigate the worrying new variant entitled ‘Omicron’ that originated in Southern Africa countries.
In a combined press conference in Downing Street from the PM and speech by Health Secretary Savid Javid in the House of Commons at 6pm, it was announced that early evidence showed that the Omicron variant was more transmissible than the Delta version last year and action was needed quickly.
Therefore ministers have introduced their measures originally laid out in the Winter and Autumn Plan back in September, with one restriction already in place before this announcement. Two weeks ago face masks became mandatory in shops, post offices and when using public transport unless exempt.
From this Friday face coverings will be a requirement for entry in most indoor environments, which include restaurants, hospitality, gyms, theatres, and cinemas. Naturally they are not required when people are eating, drinking, exercising, or singing; there was no advice on wearing them in outdoors situations.
On Monday work from home guidance will be reintroduced with a focus on the vulnerable, whilst the PM said this should apply to those ‘who can’. However Mr Johnson was keen to clarify that this advice was voluntary and not a must, implying that it was a conversation to be held between bosses and staff.
A third and final instruction was the addition of NHS Covid Passes, or vaccine passport, which will be made mandatory in a weeks’ time at various events. These included nightclubs and events such as sporting matches with large crowds, the PM confirming that a negative lateral flow test result was acceptable.
Contacts of anybody testing positive for Omicron will now have to take daily tests instead of a 10 day period of self-isolation, although this remains open for review. Alongside this will be the continued vaccine rollout and booster programme, which has seen nearly 20 million receive all three Covid-19 injections.
Concluding the speech Mr Johnson said that MPs will review these guidelines next Tuesday and will be given a vote, which is likely to pass with cross-party support. The new restrictions will expire on January 26 with a New Year review, with the PM suggesting that Christmas plans should go ahead as scheduled.
But despite this announcement critics will suggest the restrictions have been imposed in a bid to deflect public anger over alleged illegal Christmas parties held in late 2020. Media reports suggest that a rule-breaking event was held in Downing Street on December 18 when London was in Tier 3 lockdown alongside Gosport.
This row exploded overnight with an ITV News video that appears to show Downing Street aides joking about ‘fictional parties’ and ‘no social distancing’, prompting huge upset from bereaved families and voters who saw their own events cancelled as they followed rules implemented by Number 10.
Although there was calls for the PM’s resignation, instead apologising for the impression that the video gave voters but refused to accept the party went ahead. He further launched an investigation and made a commitment that evidence would be passed to police, whilst spokeswoman Allegra Stratton resigned in an emotional statement.
Neither Suella Braverman or Caroline Dinenage have made any comments on the Christmas party reports thus far; although the Gosport MP has shared the new Government advice on her social media channels shortly after the briefing had concluded. More information can be found on the Government website.
PICTURED BY SKY NEWS: Boris Johnson announced Plan B restrictions as he insisted Christmas remains unchanged