Prime Minister Boris Johnson said introducing new coronavirus restrictions is a “proportionate and responsible” reaction to the spread of the Omicron variant.
– What is in Plan B?
England’s new measures will include the wider wearing of face masks, a return to working from home, and the mandatory use of Covid passes for access to large venues.
– What are the new rules on masks?
From Friday, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship, but not gyms, bars or restaurants.
Masks are already required on public transport and in shops.
– What about working from home?
From Monday, those who can work from home are advised to do so. But the Prime Minister said Christmas parties and school nativity plays should still go ahead.
– Will I need to show a Covid pass to get into a nightclub?
From Wednesday the NHS Covid Pass, on the NHS app, will become mandatory for entry into clubs and other large gatherings – classed as indoor events with 500 or more people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000, and any event with a crowd of more than 10,000.
For those without the app proof of a negative test through a text message or email from the NHS would be sufficient.
Venues which fail to comply with the regulations could face fines of up to £10,000.
– What has the political reaction been?
There has been fury on the Tory benches over the curbs on freedoms, with Covid Recovery Group leader Mark Harper warning there is no “credible exit strategy” from the new rules and that vaccine passports are “pointless and damaging”.
Former chief whip Mr Harper suggested Mr Johnson’s authority has been diminished by the Owen Paterson sleaze row and the alleged Downing Street party, saying: “Why should people listen to the Prime Minister’s instructions to follow the rules when people inside Number 10 Downing Street don’t do so?”
– Will the plans be derailed by a Tory revolt then?
Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday, but, as Labour supports the package, even a large Tory rebellion will not succeed in reversing Plan B.
However, Tory former minister Steve Baker said it is “vital” that as many Conservatives as possible rebel because “this is now about the kind of future we are creating”.
– Will the measures work?
The Government hopes the measures will slow the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in order to buy time for the vaccine booster programme to bolster defences against Covid-19.
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) from University College London, said “more social distancing, not going to work if you don’t have to, not going on public transport to go to work when you don’t have to, will make a difference”.
“I think it’s very difficult to predict whether that’s going to be enough, but I think it’s an essential first move,” he told Sky News.
– What do businesses think?
The Confederation of British Industry said “targeted support” could be needed for firms hit by the changes.
Hospitality industry trade body UKHospitality warned the measures could be “catastrophic” without extra government aid.
Michael Kill, head of the Night Time Industries Association, said clubs and bars must not be “thrown under the bus” for the Prime Minister to “save his own skin” following the row over the Downing Street party.
– How will England’s Plan B differ from the rest of the UK?
Each of the four nations’ handling of the pandemic is managed by their own leaders.
In Scotland, vaccine passports are already in force and have been since October, with people who are attending nightclubs, indoor events (unseated) with 500 or more people, outdoor events (unseated) with 4,000 or more people and any event with 10,000 or more to show they are double vaccinated before entering.
Since December 6, a negative PCR test taken within 24 hours of entry to a venue or a negative lateral flow test have also been accepted as part of the passes. Scotland’s Covid passes are called the NHS Scotland COVID Status app.
In Wales, vaccine passports are in force in cinemas, theatres, concert halls as well as nightclubs and large events.
They are also needed for unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people in the audience, outdoor or indoor unseated venues with a capacity over 4,000 and any event with more than 10,000 people.
The passes can be downloaded by people who are double vaccinated or have tested negatively within 48 hours of entering the venue.
Similarly to England, Wales uses the NHS Covid Pass.
Northern Ireland has followed the same rules as Wales, which have been in place since November 29. Enforcement will be applied from December 13. Residents who can download Covid passes include those who are double vaccinated or have tested negatively within 48 hours of entering the venue.
In Northern Ireland, the pass is called COVIDCert NI Mobile App.