COVID-19 rules in England will tighten from Monday as all adults are advised to now work from home if they can.
The guidance comes as part of the government’s ‘Plan B’ to tackle the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and brings England in line with the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The ramped up measures come after scientists warned that the new variant is much more transmissible than other mutations and is on track to overtake Delta as the dominant strain in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Sunday (12 December) and said the country is facing an “Omicron emergency”, adding that a “tidal wave” of the new variant is coming.
In response, booster vaccines will now be offered to everyone over the age of 18 in England from this week, with the target of giving all those eligible a jab by the end of December.
What are the rules under Plan B?
The government announced last week that England would move to ‘Plan B’ measures to help minimise the spread of the Omicron variant, with the following rule changes taking effect.
Work from home
As of 13 December, everyone in England is being urged to work from home where possible.
The guidance has been reintroduced as part of efforts to reduce the number of contacts of Omicron cases, and to minimise the number of infections.
No businesses are being told to close at this point, with the guidance only to work from home “where you can”.
Wearing face masks
Stricter face mask rules kicked in on Friday (10 December), with coverings now required in most indoor venues.
Masks must be worn in the following venues until at least 5 January 2022 when the government will review the rules:
- Indoor events with at least 500 attendees
- Large outdoor gatherings (e.g. football games) - but only when indoors
- Shops and supermarkets (includes shops in larger premises, e.g. a gift shop inside a museum)
- Shopping centres and indoor markets
- Post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants and all other high street financial service outlets
- Takeaways (where you can’t eat or drink on the premises)
- Auction houses
- Estate and letting agents
- Travel agents
- Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (e.g. hair salons and tattoo & piercing studios)
- Public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries)
- Transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, ports, bus and coach stations)
- Face coverings must also be worn in any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson and a practical driving test
Failure to wear a face mask will incur a £200 fine, which will then double for each further offence, rising to a maximum of £6,400.
Daily Covid testing
Those who are unvaccinated must continue to self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
From Tuesday (14 December), those who are double jabbed and identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19 in England will be told to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days instead of isolating.
The new guidance applies to all cases of coronavirus, regardless of whether it is the Omicron variant or other strains.
From Wednesday (15 December), mandatory Covid passports will be introduced to enter some venues and events, including nightclubs.
Venues where proof of vaccination status will be required include indoor venues that are unseated with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue hosting more than 10,000 people.
A negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient proof to enter, Mr Johnson said.
From Wednesday (15 December), care home residents in England will be asked to select just three people to visit and one essential care worker.
What about booster jabs?
The target of offering booster jabs to all adults has been brought forward by one month.
The previous goal of the end of January has been scrapped, with the government now aiming to offer all those eligible in England a top-up dose by the end of December.
Mr Johnson also said the Government will provide additional support to accelerate the vaccination rollout in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.