Plan B restrictions to end in England next week, Boris Johnson announces

Jan 19, 2022

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Boris Johnson has today announced that England’s Plan B measures will come to an end next week.

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The end of Plan B COVID-19 restrictions will mean the end of the government’s current advice to work from home, as well as dropping rules for facemasks in public places and COVID-19 passports for large venues.

According to the Prime Minister, the changes will see England move back into Plan A following the success of the countries booster rollout, telling MPs in the Commons that scientists now believe omicron has peaked nationally.

Related: Self-isolation period in UK cut to five days, here’s what you should know

From next Thursday 27 January, mandatory COVID-19 passports for large events and venues such as nightclubs will no longer be officially required. Though businesses can still choose to use the NHS pass if they wish. Further to this, the PM said that facemasks will also no longer be a mandatory requirement anywhere in England.

However, it will still be advised that people wear face coverings when in enclosed or crowded spaces.

The Prime Minister added that it would “still be a legal requirement for those who’ve tested positive for COVID to self-isolate” but that there would “soon be a time where we can remove the requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations for people to self-isolate if they have flu.”

It remains unclear when or if the changes will later include the removal of Day 2 testing requirements for arrivals and Brits returning to the U.K. from abroad. A move that would potentially arrive just in time for the February half term and save families hundreds of pounds.

TPG has reached out to the Department of Transport for further clarification.

However, British travellers and international visitors to the U.K. will likely now be filled with fresh hope for the removal of testing requirements ahead of the 2022 holiday season.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid hinted at the new announcement, telling MPs that he was “cautiously optimistic” of significantly reducing the nations COVID-19 restrictions.

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The news comes earlier than expected with the proposed review of current Plan B measures scheduled for Wednesday 26 January. Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Javid said: “We have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations

Javid added: “The action that this Government has taken in response to omicron and the collective efforts of the British people have seen us become the most boosted country in Europe the most tested country in Europe.

“I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary.

“Due to these pharmaceutical defences and the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week.”

Currently, travellers are required to take a non-NHS lateral flow test, at their own cost, two days after they return to the U.K. to ensure they’re COVID-19-free.

According to the Sunday Times, the changes to testing requirements are under discussion and would likely come into effect on 26 January as part of a government climbdown on its Plan B measures, brought into force in early December.

“We are looking at removing all Covid tests for vaccinated travellers by the end of January, which is likely to coincide with the review of the Plan B measures on January 26,” a source close to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the paper.

Related: UK ditches pre-departure COVID-19 tests for arrivals

The move would be a major boost for the travel industry, with travel firms hoping to see a bumper period as bookings soar in response to the change in U.K. restrictions.

“[I] spoke to all my shops tonight and they were buzzing,” travel boss Miles Morgan told The Independent. “My teams so deserve some ‘normal’ after almost two years of [an] endless nightmare.”

It comes a week after the government ditched pre-departure testing for people travelling to the U.K and also reduced the time required for self-isolation following a positive case of COVID-19.

The government has relaxed travel restrictions as it reconciles with the fact that the omicron variant is now “everywhere” in Britain, so additional measures to prevent it from entering the country are effectively redundant.

“Now omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate,” tweeted Shapps last week.

As of Monday, the latest UK data for COVID-19 shows 84,429 people were reported as positive for the virus, with the seven-day rolling average showing a 42% drop in cases week-to-week.

Related: What Boris Johnson’s potential resignation could mean for UK travel

Additional reporting by Matt Blake

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

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