Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a Covid update today from Downing Street announcing the country would be entering Plan B. Mr Johnson said it is clear the Omicron variant is spreading faster than Delta and that the 568 cases of the variant in the UK is almost certain and underestimate. He said: “It’s now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B.”
Scientists have long warned stricter measures are needed to stem the spread of the Omicron variant across the UK.
A prominent member of Sage cautioned a full UK-wide lockdown cannot be ruled out, however until more data is available the current threat posed by the strain remains unclear.
Before tonight, the Government had insisted it was not time to activate its Plan B.
Plan B’s aim is to implement restrictions to ease pressures on the NHS and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
However, Omicron has changed the Government’s views, with Mr Johnson telling the Cabinet on Tuesday “early indications were that it was more transmissible” than the Delta strain.
The focus is currently on the booster rollout and getting Brits jabbed as quickly as possible.
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What did we learn from today’s press conference?
Plan B will be enforced
Plan B is the next step in managing the spread of Covid, with a return of mandatory facemasks, vaccine passports for events and large venues and work from home guidance returning.
Mr Javid said the new restrictions will be reviewed on January 5, and they will all sunset on January 26.
Working from home
Mr Johnson said the guidance will be reintroduced for working from home from Monday, with businesses to discuss this week how best to transition.
He 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.
“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission.”
Facemasks will be mandatory indoors at most public venues including theatres and cinemas from Friday.
Masks are also mandatory in shops – with the newest guidance extending to most public venues.
Vaccine passports will be brought in for large scale venues.
The Prime Minister said: “Will also make the NHS COVID pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, and seated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.”
Mr Johnson said daily testing would be introduced instead of isolation for those who come into contact with infected people.
He said: “The single biggest thing that every one of us can do is to get our jabs and, crucially, to get that booster as soon as our turn arrives.
“Let’s do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones this winter, and reduce the pressures on our NHS.”
He said the Government would “constantly monitor the data” but called on everyone to “play your part” and get a booster vaccine when available.
The Prime Minister added: “As soon as it becomes clear that the boosters are capable of holding this Omicron variant and we have boosted enough people to do that job of keeping Omicron in equilibrium, then we will be able to move forward as before.”
Downing Street parties
Many Britons were waiting for the Prime Minister to address the controversy surrounding the Conservatives after videos surfaced relating to alleged Christmas parties.
The conference came after a day of chaos for the Tories, with videos showing key members attending supposed Christmas parties and joking about those gatherings in a faux press conference.
Allegra Stratton resigned as an advisor to the Prime Minister after a video of her joking about an alleged party surfaced.
Laughing with Downing Street staffers Ms Stratton could be seen saying: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
Addressing a question from Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Johnson first gave a tribute to Ms Stratton for her work during COP26.
He said: “I think the British public can see the vital importance of the medical instruction that we’re giving.”
Answering another question on the subject, Mr Johnson said as far as he was aware the rules had been adhered to.