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UK Covid restrictions: What to expect ahead of Plan B review this week

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Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson fully rolled out his Covid Plan B measures in an attempt to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant. The strain has led to record daily case numbers of Covid being recorded in the UK, with hospitalisations also starting to rise. Although he resisted the urge to go further with restrictions over the festive period, the PM is expected to review the available data this week and decide if more rules are needed.

What could make the PM’s mind up?

Case numbers

Over the festive period, the UK reported unprecedented daily case numbers, which saw the record for this measure broken on a number of occasions.

Currently, the highest total reported in a single 24-hour-period was announced on New Year’s Eve, with 189,846 cases.

That number fell slightly yesterday to 162,572 cases.

Hospitalisations

Although not as high, the number of people requiring hospital treatment due to Covid has started to rise in recent weeks.

According to the most recently available Government data (December 27) 1,915 people were admitted to hospital.

This represents the highest increase in UK hospitalisations since February of last year.

What are the current Plan B rules in England?

Firstly, it is mandatory for people to wear face coverings in shops and while using public transport. However, this measure does not extend to restaurants or bars.

People have been urged to work from home where possible, but this guidance is not a legal requirement.

Anyone who wishes to enter a nightclub or other large venues must provide a valid NHS Covid Pass.

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This includes unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more people, and any event with 10,000 or more people present.

Furthermore, if a vaccinated person in England has tested positive for Covid or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 days if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

What further restrictions could the PM impose?

Should he feel it necessary, Mr Johnson could look to tighten Covid rules that are already in place.

For instance, face masks could become mandatory for all indoor spaces as opposed to the current rule, which makes hospitality venues and leisure facilities exempt.

The PM could look to introduce vaccine passports for people to gain entry to certain indoor venues. Here, only those who are fully vaccinated could enter these facilities.

In addition, restrictions on social mixing indoors, such as the previously used ‘rule of six’, could return to help prevent the spread of Covid.

Nonetheless, any changes that Mr Johnson does deem necessary are likely to face backlash from Conservative politicians.

In December, he faced a revolt from 100 of his own MPs when a vote was held on the rule to pass NHS Covid passes into law. Indeed, the measure was only able to pass thanks to the support of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

Mr Johnson has promised to allow MP’s to vote on any further Covid measures that he looks to introduce, which could prove problematic for him.

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