politics

Covid Plan B rules look set to end on January 26 as Tories 'hopeful and optimistic'


Guidance on working from home could be scrapped alongside compulsory Covid passes for nightclubs and large events – but reports suggest masks in shops and on public transport would stay

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Oliver Dowden “hopeful and optimistic” that Plan B can end on January 26

Speculation is mounting that most of England’s Plan B Covid rules will end on January 26 after a Cabinet minister said he was “hopeful and optimistic”.

Tory chairman Oliver Dowden today said “it all seems to be heading in the right direction” as Boris Johnson prepares to review rules on compulsory masks, working from home and Covid passes.

Sunday newspapers reported the government expects work-from-home guidance and Covid passes for nightclubs to be scrapped on January 26.

But the legal requirement to wear masks in shops and public transport could be extended, the Mail on Sunday and Sun on Sunday reported.

Boris Johnson is reportedly preparing for an announcement within days as he desperately tries to move on from the Downing Street parties scandal and Tory calls for him to quit. The PM has reportedly prepared ‘Operation Big Dog’ to sack senior aides to save his own skin in a ‘Night of the Long Scapegoats’.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said “we hope” Plan B measures can end as “we don’t want any more restrictions or measures than are absolutely necessary.

But the Labour MP warned the PM must not be driven by “needing to throw some read meat to backbenchers” in a bid to “move on” from lockdown-busting No10 parties.







People wearing face masks on Oxford Street, in central London
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Mr Streeting warned while London may be “over the peak” of Omicron, “the rest of England is still bearing the brunt of it” and “we can’t be complacent”.

Today Mr Dowden hinted some restrictions in England could be lifted on time. They lapse on January 26 and a new vote by MPs would be needed to extend them beyond that date.

He told Sky News: “It’s always been my hope that we’d have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.

“I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens this puts on hospitality, wider businesses, schools and so on.

“I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can. The signs are encouraging but clearly we’ll wait to see that data ahead of the final decision.”







Tory chairman Oliver Dowden said: “It’s heading in the right direction now. I’m very hopeful and optimistic”
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Getty Images)

Asked if that means Plan B rules will be lifted, unless there is surprising new data, Mr Dowden replied: “Well, it all seems to be heading in the right direction, particularly crucially in relation to hospitalisations that seem to be plateauing.

“It’s heading in the right direction now. I’m very hopeful and optimistic.

“But clearly, we will await the data at the point of a decision before making that final decision.”

It comes after 81,713 new Covid cases were identified in a day – with new daily cases plummeting by 33% in a week.

The number of new patients admitted to hospital appears to have levelled off but is still at a high level, with 2,423 new admissions on January 10 alone.

And deaths – which lag behind cases – are also still rising, up 45% in a week to 287 deaths announced yesterday alone.

But SAGE minutes on Friday confirmed the Omicron strain appeared to be milder than Delta – despite hundreds of people still dying per day.

The government’s advisors said: “Early data indicates that the severity of disease being observed in hospital over the last three weeks is lower than observed in early phases of previous waves, with less need for oxygen, less admission to intensive care, better outcomes, and shorter stays.”

Reports suggest the UK is set to scrap post-arrival ‘Day 2’ lateral flow tests for fully-vaccinated arrivals from abroad, with the move taking effect around January 26.

All 16- and 17-year-olds will also be offered booster jabs from Monday, once they cross the three-month threshold since their second dose.

And reports claim masks in schools in England could be dropped before the January 26 deadline.

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