England has now moved back to Plan A after several weeks in slightly harsher restrictions thanks to the rapid spread of Omicron over December and early January. But things are looking up as hospitalisations and deaths remain low in comparison to previous viral peaks.
The huge booster drive over Christmas and New Year has helped reduce the burden and save lives.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows Covid infection levels have now fallen in most parts of the UK for the first time since early December.
As a result, Boris Johnson announced last week that measures that were put in place in December will now be removed in England.
He told the House of Commons: “The Cabinet concluded that because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire.”
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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our plan was to use the time that Plan B gave us to give ourselves extra power in our fight against Omicron. That plan has worked, and the data shows that Omicron is in retreat.
“But it’s not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line.
“The best step that we can all take is to get vaccinated. It was the jabs that have got us this far, and the jabs can keep us here too.”
The changes include no more working from home advice, no more vaccine passes for large events and nightclubs, and the abandonment of the need to wear face masks in most indoor settings.
The only setting that requires a face mask to be worn is a medical setting, such as a hospital, GP practice, or pharmacy.
The Government guidance reads: “Infection prevention control guidance continues to require face coverings be worn in health and care settings, including primary care and pharmacies.”
Other than this, there are only individual shops that are requiring customers to keep their masks on.
Sainsbury’s and John Lewis have both confirmed they will still ask customers to wear masks in their England stores.
Those travelling on Transport for London services will also still require passengers to wear a face mask.
Medical experts have warned the public that despite the relaxation in rules, they should continue to take the threat of coronavirus seriously.
Chief Medical Advisor for the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Susan Hopkins, said: “The recent decline in community case rates and individuals requiring hospitalisation is encouraging and it’s thanks to the public, who have taken up vaccination and followed the Plan B measures closely, that we’ve got to this point.
“However we should not be complacent. The pandemic is not over yet and we will need to remain cautious to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.
“I encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they can, to continue testing regularly with lateral flow tests – particularly before periods of high risk and before seeing anyone who is vulnerable – and to take a PCR test if they have symptoms.”