England returns to Plan A as regulations on face coverings and COVID Passes change today

Date published: 27 January 2022

Regulations on face coverings and Covid passes have changed.

The government has announced that all measures under 'Plan B' have now been lifted.  This means face coverings are no longer mandatory in indor venues, and Covid passes are now voluntary for large events and nightclubs.

People are no longer being advised to work from home.

The changes come after a decline in Omicron infections, and a stablisation of hospital admissions.

Plan B measures were initially introduced on 8 December last year to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and buy time for scientists to better understand it and get more jabs in arms. The 'Get Boosted Now' appeal was launched, bringing the date for all adults to be offered a booster to the New Year.

The vaccination programme has succeeded in reducing the risk of severe infection and hospitalisations, easing pressure on the NHS. Hospital admissions have now stabilised and the number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 continues to fall.

However, the Government are asking the public to remain vigilant, issuing some general advice:

  • Venues may choose to use the NHS COVID Pass voluntarily;
  • Local directors of public health are still able to recommend face coverings in communal areas only in education settings within their area;
  • Face coverings should be worn in health and care settings, including primary care and pharmacies;
  • It's suggested that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces where they might come into contact with people they do not normally meet;
  • It is still a legal requirement for those with Covid-19 to self-isolate for 10 days with the option to end self-isolation after 5 full days following two negative LFD tests.  

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the vaccination programme has helped the slow down of hospital admissions.
"The tireless efforts of NHS and care staff, and the army of volunteers, as well as the phenomenal response of the British public means over 37 million people have been boosted. I want to thank everyone who has come forward to Get Boosted Now.

"Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.
"As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away so if you haven’t already – please come forward for your first, second or booster jab.”

Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Arooj Shah

Today’s changes follows a review last week of data including infections, vaccine efficacy, Covid-19 pressures on the NHS, workforce absences, public behaviours, and views from the scientific community.

Over the last 7 days Oldham has an infection rate of 748 per 100,000 population, a drop of 17% from the previous week.  Oldham’s rate is now the lowest 7-day rate across Greater Manchester.

Oldham Council Leader, Arooj Shah gave a cautious welcome to the changes in restrictions.

"This is really difficult.  We've been dealing with this pandemic now for almost two years, and I understand that people are really fatigued.

"I do want to stress that Covid is still out there and very much alive in our communities.

"I'd encourage everyone to make sure they are fully vaccinated.  This will help us reduce illness and transmission as much as we can.

"The complete relaxation of the rules doesn't feel like it helps locally in making sure people are still testing, still getting vaccinated, and making sure we keep ourselves and our community safe."

So far 77% of Oldham's population have received their first Covid vaccinationd, 71% have received their second, and 53% a third jab.

The national rate for a third (booster) jab is 46%.

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