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Covid Plan B for England: PM announces work-from-home guidance, new mask rules and NHS Covid Passes as Omicron spreads

The government has announced the introduction of Plan B restrictions amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The guidance to work from home where possible will return from Monday (December 13) and mandatory mask wearing is being extended to more public places including cinemas and theatres, from Friday (December 10). There will be exemptions when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.

Boris Johnson at the press conference. Graphic: PA (53608869)
Boris Johnson at the press conference. Graphic: PA (53608869)

Meanwhile, an NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory in nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather from “a week’s time”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a Downing Street press conference. It will apply to unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and outside where there are more than 4,000 people.

The Prime Minister added that the pass can be obtained with a negative lateral flow test or by having had two doses of a vaccine but hinted this could change by saying “we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out”.

The PM said the measures were “proportionate and responsible” in light of the exponential growth in cases of the highly-mutated Omicron variant, which are believed to be growing every two to three days.

That could lead to huge numbers by Christmas. For example, if we began with 1,000 cases a day and it doubled every three days, you would reach 100,000 cases a day in a month.

Speaking in the House of Commons, health secretary Sajid Javid said there are 568 cases of Omicron confirmed in the country, but that the true figure is estimated to be “probably closer to 10,000”.

The first confirmed Omicron case in Cambridgeshire was confirmed on December 1 in South Cambridgeshire.

Daily tests will be introduced instead of isolation to “minimise the disruption to daily life” as the variant spread, the Prime Minister said.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19. Graphic: PA (53608867)
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19. Graphic: PA (53608867)

The highest number of cases are being seen in young people, but no new measures were announced for schools or education by the Prime Minister.

In South Africa, where the variant emerged, hospitalisations are now growing.

The Prime Minister was grilled at the press coference on the controversy surrounding the alleged Downing Street party in 2020.

He has ordered an investigation into claims staff broke lockdown rules by holding a Christmas party last year and earlier told MPs he was “furious” about the footage of a dress rehearsal press conference apparently showing aides laughing about it.

Mr Johnson told this evening’s press conference that the matter was “infuriating for people around the country”.

But he stressed that the public could see “the vital importance of the medical information we are giving”.

It is thought that Omicron is highly transmissible and vaccines may be less effective against it. However, it is hoped that boosters will play a vital role in helping to prevent serious cases.

Today, Pfizer and BioNTech said the antibody levels reached with three doses of their vaccine were as good as for two doses against the original Wuhan strain of the virus, which have already been shown to offer high levels of protection.

Laboratory work found that two doses of the vaccine, however, resulted in a significantly reduced effectiveness against Omicron.

The booster roll-out was accelerated today (December 8), with those aged 40 and over now able to book their booster from three months after their second jab.

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Covid-19 boosters jabs available in Cambridgeshire to those aged 40-plus three months after second jab by appointment only

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