Plan B restrictions to go, but guidance remains in place

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Plan B Covid-19 restrictions will end on Thursday 27 January, marking the end of mandatory wearing of face masks in schools, on public transport and in shops, as well as advice to work from home if you can.

Government guidance – around ventilation and masks, limiting close contact with people you don’t usually meet and washing hands regularly – is still in place.

While the prime minister’s statement this week was met with support from business representative bodies, unions warned that there will be health costs to dropping all restrictions.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said retail staff who work with the public every day are “deeply worried”. “Wearing a face covering protects others, it should not be a personal preference, but a personal responsibility. The Government must be clear and consistent on it being mandatory for the time being.”

Opening windows is particularly important before, during, and after meeting people you do not live with indoors, says government guidance. Photograph: iStock

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, also warned that the NHS was under significant pressure and urged the government to be honest with the public that a decision to lift restrictions was a trade-off.

He said: “We will have greater freedoms, but the cost—at least in the short term—will be that more people are likely to get sick with covid and that the health service will continue to have to deal with the extra burdens that this creates.”

Commenting from the point of view of schools, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said it was dangerous to lift restrictions before the effects of returning to school are clear. She predicted potentially more staff absences, causing “more education disruption”.

For the CBI, Matthew Fell, Chief Policy Director, welcomed the news but added that many employers would see the benefit of combining home and in office working despite the removal of the work from home advice: “Hybrid working is here to stay, with firms that can already seeking a balanced approach to home and office working.”

Other restrictions which will go from 27 January are NHS Covid Passes as a guarantee of entry by law to certain venues and events.

However, events and venues will be able to make the decision to voluntarily check the Covid-19 status of attendees and staff through the NHS Covid Pass.

Also in the pipeline are the removal of self-isolation rules for people who have coronavirus. The prime minister told the Commons that the legal requirement on people with coronavirus to self-isolate would be allowed to lapse when the regulations expired on 24 March, and that date could be brought forward.

Chief Medical Advisor for the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Susan Hopkins said although a recent decline in cases and hospitalisations was “encouraging”, the decline was thanks to people following the Plan B measures closely.

“We should not be complacent. The pandemic is not over yet and we will need to remain cautious to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

Government announcement: return to Plan A here

Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread guidance here


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