Boris Johnson has announced the country is moving to ‘Plan B’ due to Omicron variant spreading ‘incredibly fast’.
The prime minister held a Downing Street conference tonight (December 8) on covid joined by England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
He said it was now “proportionate and responsible” to move the country to plan B amid increased concerned about how fast the omicron variant is spreading.
Mr Johnson said the current doubling rate is thought to be 2 to 3 days.
The main points of plan B include guidance to ‘work from home’ and people will be asked to wear face masks in more settings. The new guidance will come into force on Monday.
He said: “We can’t yet assume that Omicron is less severe than previous variants.
“So while the picture may get better, and I sincerely hope that it will, we know that the remorseless logic of exponential growth could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations and therefore, sadly, in deaths.
“That’s why it is now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, so we slow the spread of the virus, buy ourselves the time to get yet more boosters into arms, especially in the older and more vulnerable people.”
He explained that at the moment there are 568 confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the UK but he said he expected the true number to be much higher.
He said: “That’s why it is now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, so we slow the spread of the virus, buy ourselves the time to get yet more boosters into arms, especially in the older and more vulnerable people.”
Prof Whitty told the briefing that cases have been increasing ‘incredibly fast’, with the variant doubling time currently be between two and three days.”
Among the measures introduced:
- Guidance to work from home for those who can from Monday
- From this Friday, mandatory masks will be extended to most public venues, including theatres and cinemas
- From next week, the NHS Covid pass will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues with larger crowds.
What are plan B restrictions?
The so-called “plan B” restrictions were first outlined by ministers in the summer and would include new guidance to work from home if possible.
According to the government’s Covid autumn and winter plan, which was published in September, the “plan B” strategy would “only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS.”
The plan stated that measures would include a mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification in certain settings. These would be in venues such as nightclubs and indoor crowded venues with 500 or more people in attendance.
The plan also proposed the return of work from home guidance.