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New restrictions announced in England in bid to tackle Omicron variant

Boris Johnson said it’s clear the new strain is ‘growing much faster’ than Delta.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has announced the reintroduction of work-from-home guidance and other restrictions in England in a bid to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.

Johnson announced this evening that vaccine passports will become mandatory in large venues and mask rules will be extended, as part of the introduction of ‘Plan B’ measures.

The UK Prime Minister warned it is clear the new strain is “growing much faster” than Delta and cases of Omicron could be doubling every two or three days as he strengthened England’s rules to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Johnson said that guidance to work from home where possible will return from Monday, and mandatory mask wearing will be extended to public places like cinemas and theatres from Friday.

The NHS Covid pass will be mandatory in nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather from “a week’s time”, the Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference, as he described the measures as “proportionate and responsible”.

pa-graph Source: PA Graphics

In the UK parliament, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there are 568 cases of Omicron confirmed but that the true figure is estimated to be “probably closer to 10,000”.

Johnson said the mask guidance would include exemptions for when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.

The Covid health certificate will apply to unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and outside where there are more than 4,000 people.

The Prime Minister added that the pass can be obtained with a negative lateral flow test or by having had two doses of a vaccine but hinted this could change by saying “we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out”.

Johnson also faced questions over how the public can accept his rules amid anger over allegations Downing Street staff broke Covid rules in a Christmas party last year.

He told the press conference there was “no excuse” for the video showing Number 10 aides joking about an alleged lockdown party but added that former aide Allegra Stratton had been a “fine colleague”.

Stratton resigned earlier today after footage of her joking with colleagues about the party emerged yesterday. 

“Allegra Stratton has resigned and I wanted to pay tribute to her because she has been, in spite of what everybody has seen, and again, I make no excuses for the frivolity with which the subject was handled in that rehearsal that people saw in that clip,” the Prime Minister told the press briefing.

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“There can be no excuse for it. I can totally understand how infuriating it was… But I want to say that Allegra has been a fine colleague, has achieved a great deal in her time in Government,” he said.

Johnson also said that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s investigation will look into “what took place on December 18” rather than other alleged parties.

“As for other events, dates … as far as I’m aware, to the best of my knowledge we have followed the rules throughout,” he said.

“Indeed, as far as I’m aware, the rules were followed on December 18 as well.”

The Metropolitan Police said this evening that it will not launch an investigation into the video of Number 10 staff joking about a party because it “does not provide evidence of a breach” of health regulations and instead “restates allegations made in the media”.

In a statement, the force said it received “a significant amount of correspondence” regarding the video. It added that any evidence found as part of the Cabinet Office inquiry will be passed to the Met for further consideration.

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