Covid Plan B shopping rules change – every restriction so far

Patrick Vallance warns nation must be ready for COVID Plan B

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As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the country, and tougher restrictions are introduced to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, many are asking whether the Prime Minister will be forced to change strategy and adopt ‘Plan B’. Here’s everything we know about Plan B and what it will mean for shops and businesses.

Reports say the Government could be planning to implement their ‘Plan B’ strategy to reduce the risk of Covid transmission from as early as tomorrow, Thursday December 9.

The Government is currently following ‘Plan A’, as laid out by Boris Johnson in September, looking ahead to controlling the spread of coronavirus and minimising the pressure on the NHS this winter.

The key actions of Plan A have been to:

  • Offer vaccine boosters to older and clinically vulnerable people
  • Vaccinate younger children
  • Encourage face masks indoors
  • Encourage outdoor socialising where possible, and if not then to keep indoor spaces well ventilated by opening windows and doors
  • Flu vaccines offered to as many people as possible
  • Continue the test and trace programme

Despite these measures, the country is facing rising coronavirus cases and new cases of the Omicron variant.

The Government has already started to introduce new rules to curb the rise of cases, including making face coverings mandatory on public transport and in shops again.

In order to stop the spread of Omicron, the Government has introduced new restrictions on travel: adding 11 countries to the red list and making all travellers arriving to the UK show a negative coronavirus test.

Until now, the Government has avoided switching their strategy to Plan B, but reports suggest this could change in the coming days.

What is Plan B?

Back in September, a statement from Downing Street said: “As the PM also set out, autumn and winter could pose renewed challenges and it is difficult to predict the path of the virus with certainty.

“So as the public would expect, there will be a range of ‘Plan B’ measures kept under review to help control transmission of the virus while minimising economic and social damage.”

Downing Street lists the Plan B measures as:

  • Introducing mandatory vaccine only Covid status certification in certain, riskier settings.
  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport and shops.
  • Communicating clearly and urgently to the public if the risk level increases.

The Government has also said they will consider asking employees to work from home, although “a final decision on this would be made at the time, dependent on the latest data – recognising the extra disruption this causes to individuals and businesses.”

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What does Covid Plan B mean for shopping?

The Government has already mandated customers must wear face coverings in shops, as long as they aren’t exempt such as for medical reasons.

In the guidance for businesses laid out in the Plan B strategy, it says businesses should:

  • Ask employees to stay at home if they are feeling unwell.
  • Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air to indoor spaces.
  • Provide hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and clean surfaces which people touch regularly.
  • Display an NHS QR code poster for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, so they are alerted if there’s an outbreak and can take action to protect others.
  • Consider using the NHS COVID Pass.

When it comes to shops, if many employees are contacted by test and trace, or have to take time off sick, this could lead to staff shortages and therefore some closures.

Many shops are offering hand sanitiser to customers upon arrival, and this may become an even more common sight.

Customers may have to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or show proof of their vaccine or a negative Covid test, if shops adopt the NHS COVID Pass.

As the Government has yet to confirm whether they are moving to Plan B restrictions, we can expect more detailed guidance on any possible new restrictions.

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