When to expect Plan B restrictions to end and what Boris Johnson could announce next

Plan B covid restrictions for England were announced on December 8 as an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The change in rules saw covid passes being made mandatory for nightclubs and large events, face coverings were made a legal requirement in certain public indoor venues and people were asked to work from home if they could.

Additionally, daily lateral flow testing replaced isolation for people who were ‘pinged’ as a contact of a positive covid case.

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The rules were brought in as a response to the spread of Omicron, which saw covid cases and hospitalisations rise during December and January.

However, there is a possibility that the restrictions will not be in place for too much longer.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on January 5 the government had agreed to keep Plan B in place for three more weeks.

This means the rules will expire on January 26, pending the outcome of a review before that date.

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What happens next?

In the same speech to the Commons, the Prime Minister stated the government does not wish to move towards a full lockdown.

According to reports, Mr Johnson will instead reveal a plan for how the country can ‘live with the virus’ going forward, setting out what restrictions we will see in the months ahead.

The I reported the plan includes reducing isolation periods, with five days staying at home the current preferred model, and winding down free lateral flow tests.

However, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the removal of free lateral flow tests was definitely not happening, reports HullLive.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said earlier this week the country is moving to a stage where it can “live with covid”.

Mr Gove acknowledged there would still be “difficult weeks ahead” with the NHS facing real pressure, and it was not yet possible to say the current Omicron-driven wave of covid-19 cases was abating.

The Levelling Up Secretary, who was one of the voices around the cabinet table arguing for tougher measures when Omicron emerged, said the easing of restrictions would have to be guided by science, but “the sooner the better”.

Like Mr Zahawi, Mr Gove said lateral flow tests will be free for “as long as we need” and “they’re a vital tool in making sure that we can curb the spread of the infection and also that people who are needed to isolate do so”.

He told Sky News: “We are moving to a situation – we’re not there yet – but we are moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with Covid, and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating.”

Lateral Flow test (Rapid Antigen Test)

Around 100,000 critical workers are beginning to be offered daily lateral flow testing to help spot and isolate asymptomatic cases and limit the risk of outbreaks in key workplaces.

Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today on January 10: “It is the case that we are in the next two or three weeks – perhaps longer – facing real pressure on the NHS, and our first responsibility at the moment must be to support the NHS.”

But after the current “difficult period”, Mr Gove said he hopes “there will be better times ahead”.

“There are other coronaviruses which are endemic and with which we live – viruses tend to develop in a way whereby they become less harmful but more widespread.

“So, guided by the science, we can look to the progressive lifting of restrictions and – I think for all of us – the sooner, the better.

“But we have got to keep the NHS safe.”

The Times is reporting covid passes are set to be abandoned this month as the Omicron wave eases.

Compulsory masks in enclosed spaces could be the only order remaining next month, if restrictions are not dropped entirely, the paper reports.

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