Government Restriction Guidance
Please click below to read the National Guidance from the Government
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a move to Plan B in England.
- Move to Plan B confirmed as Omicron spreads across UK, with early analysis suggesting cases could be doubling at a rate of as little as 2.5 to 3 days
- Face masks to become compulsory in most public indoor venues, other than hospitality
- NHS Covid Pass to be mandatory in specific settings, using a negative test or full vaccination via the NHS Covid Pass
- Vaccines and testing remain our best lines of defence
- People asked to work from home if they can
The Prime Minister has today [Wednesday 8 December] confirmed that England will move to Plan B following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Urgent work has been ongoing to understand the impact of the new variant with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. Early indications showed a large number of concerning spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.
On Saturday 27 November, the government acted quickly to slow the spread of Omicron while more data was collected and assessed.
The most recent data suggests that Omicron has a very high growth rate and is spreading rapidly. S-gene drop out cases have grown from 0.15% of cases during the week of 21st November, to 3.3% of cases since 5 December in England. There are currently 568 cases confirmed across the UK and early analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggesting the doubling time could be as little as 2.5 to 3 days.
As seen in previous waves, a swift rise in cases can lead to a rapid rise in hospitalisations, which will quickly lead to pressure on the NHS. The data in South Africa is showing a rapid increase in hospitalisations.
As a result of this concerning data the Prime Minister has acted quickly and with caution, confirming Plan B measures will come into force while more data on vaccine efficacy and disease severity is assessed. Plan B was set out in September and will help to slow the spread of the variant and reduce the chances of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, while buying time to deliver more boosters.
While it is likely there is some level of reduced vaccine effectiveness against Omicron, it is still too early to determine the extent of this.
The government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data but vaccines remain our best line of defence and it is now more vital than ever that those who are unvaccinated come forward, and those eligible for their boosters book when called.
Today the NHS confirmed a huge expansion of the booster programme, with the National Booking Service now open to all those aged over 40 to book their jabs. The dose interval has also been shortened from six months to three months, with those eligible now able to book a month in advance – two months after their second dose.
The vaccine programme will be supported by the continued development of world-leading treatments. Today the Prime Minister confirmed a new national study that will see 10,000 UK patients at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 given the treatment molnupiravir to treat their symptoms at home.
Testing will also be a vital tool in controlling the spread given the likely increased transmissibility of Omicron. As there is now demonstrated community transmission of Omicron, we intend to introduce daily contact tests for contacts of confirmed positive cases instead of the ten-day self-isolation period.
Everyone should test using a lateral flow device, particularly before entering a high-risk setting involving people you wouldn’t normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person. Lateral flow devices remain free of charge and can be collected from local pharmacies.
From Friday 10 December, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. There will be exemptions in venues where it is not practical to wear one, such as when you are eating, drinking or exercising. For that reason, face masks will not be required in hospitality settings.
From Monday 13 December, those who can will be advised to work from home.
From Wednesday 15 December, and subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.
People will be able to demonstrate proof of two vaccine doses via the app. Having considered the evidence since the emergence of Omicron, proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.
Introducing Covid-status certification from next Wednesday will give businesses a week’s notice, as promised in the government’s proposals for introducing mandatory certification published in September.
A full list of guidance on these changes will be available on gov.uk in the coming days. Face covering regulations will be laid in parliament tomorrow, with the remaining regulations laid on Monday 13 December.
Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December.
The government will keep the data under constant review. The regulations set to expire six weeks after implementation, with a review after three weeks.
Taken together, the government is hopeful these measures will reduce transmission and slow the spread of the Omicron variant, and will continue to urge those eligible to get their boosters when called.
England has moved to Step 4
Although most legal restrictions have been lifted at Step 4 and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it is important that we all use personal judgment to manage our own risk. All of us can play our part by exercising common sense and considering the risks. No situation is risk free, so we all need to understand the factors and settings that increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and the actions that we can all take to reduce COVID-19 infection, both for ourselves and for others.
Following this guidance will help you to understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and the steps that you can take to stay safe and protect others. Every action to help reduce the spread will reduce any further resurgence of the virus in the coming months.
What has changed
Most legal restrictions to control COVID-19 have been lifted at Step 4. This means that:
- You do not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. There are also no limits on the number of people you can meet. However, you should limit the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with, and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts. You should meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces.
- The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. However, the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer.
- The requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted. However, the government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
- There are no longer limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There is no requirement for table service at life events, or restrictions on singing or dancing.
- There are no longer restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship.
What you should do
COVID-19 has not gone away, so it’s important to remember the actions you can take to keep yourself and others safe. While cases are high, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious.
This is why it’s important to:
- get a test if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, even if your symptoms are mild
- isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 or when told to do so by NHS Test and Trace
- meet others outside or let fresh air in
- minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts
- quarantine when returning from red list countries and for those people not fully vaccinated arriving from amber list countries
In addition, the government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
Whilst the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, the government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.
You can read more about the government’s plan to keep people safe at Step 4 in the Moving to Step 4 of the roadmap publication.
The government is also maintaining key protections, including targeted asymptomatic testing in education, high risk workplaces and to help people manage their personal risk. The government is encouraging and supporting businesses and large events to use the NHS COVID Pass in high risk settings. The government will work with organisations where people are likely to be in close proximity to others outside their household to encourage the use of this. If sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the government will consider mandating certification in certain venues at a later date
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