Omicron has given the Covid pandemic a new edge over the last few weeks, with scientists noting it has enhanced “vaccine escape”. The mutated strain could bypass the immunity provided by both Covid vaccine doses. Although boosters provide a valuable new angle of protection, they will take time to implement, forcing the Government to mitigate with new restrictions instead.
At present, Britons living in England face restrictive measures for the first time since ‘Freedom Day’ in July.
Ministers have introduced a limited mask mandate that requires them to wear a covering in shops and on public transport.
The Prime Minister added these in response to the first few Omicron cases on November 27.
New restrictions are subject to regular review and have an expiry date; three and six weeks, respectively.
The review date might be on Saturday, December 18 – three weeks after the latest restrictions were implements. It could see ministers decide whether they want to keep or dispense with the measures.
Should they decide to keep these in place, they will exist for another three weeks.
That would bring them through Christmas into the new year, with another review scheduled for January 9.
The review date applies to the new mask rules and the updated travel list.
Ministers added 11 countries to the last last month, including:
- South Africa
Transport secretary Grant Shapps usually announces travel list changes via social media.
The Government doesn’t require a review to bring in new measures, but MPs must vote on them.
Parliament has scheduled the next vote on Covid measures for December 14.
Then, MPs will decide whether to pass changes announced by Sajid Javid last week into law.
He appeared in the House of Commons on December 8 for a statement on “Plan B”, which introduces stricter Covid rules for England.
The first, compulsory lateral flow testing, will apply from Tuesday and require contacts of Covid positive patients to test themselves daily for seven days to ensure they haven’t contracted the virus.
People who test positive must self-isolate if a following PCR test provides the same results.
The testing regime doesn’t apply to unvaccinated adults, who must isolate immediately.
From Wednesday, ministers will introduce mandatory Covid status checks.
They will apply to the following locations:
- Indoor standing venues with more than 500 people
- Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
- Any venue with more than 10,000 people
Proof of a complete two-dose vaccine regimen, a negative test from the last 48 hours or exemption will provide entry to these locations.
People can provide proof of vaccination or a negative test in several ways.
The NHS Covid pass is one way, as it contains a record of Covid vaccination status and recent test results.
Emails from the NHS exhibiting negative results are also acceptable.