- Switch to Plan B confirmed as Omicron spreads across the UK, with early scans suggesting cases could double at a rate as short as 2.5 to 3 days
- Face masks will become mandatory in most indoor public places, other than hospitality
- The NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory in specific contexts, using a negative test or full vaccination via the NHS Covid Pass
- Vaccines and tests remain our best lines of defense
- People invited to work from home if they can
The Prime Minister has today [Wednesday 8 December] has confirmed that England will switch to Plan B following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Urgent work is underway to understand the impact of the new variant on vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. Early indications showed a large number of disturbing mutations in the spike protein as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.
On Saturday, November 27, the government acted quickly to slow the spread of Omicron as more data was collected and evaluated.
The most recent data suggests that Omicron has a very high growth rate and is spreading rapidly. The cases of abandonment of the S gene fell from 0.15% of cases during the week of November 21 to 3.3% of cases since December 5 in England. There are currently 568 confirmed cases across the UK and initial analyzes from the UK Health Security Agency suggest the doubling time could be as short as 2.5 to 3 days.
As seen in previous waves, a rapid increase in cases can lead to a rapid increase in hospitalizations, which will quickly put pressure on the NHS. Data in South Africa shows a rapid increase in hospitalizations.
In the wake of the worrying data, the prime minister acted swiftly and cautiously, confirming that Plan B measures will come into effect while more data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and the severity of the disease is assessed. Plan B was drawn up in September and will help slow the spread of the variant and reduce the chances of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, while also gaining time to deliver more boosters.
Although the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron is likely to be reduced, it is still too early to determine the extent.
The government will continue to take a close look at all emerging data, but vaccines remain our best line of defense and it is now more vital than ever that those who are not vaccinated come forward and that those who are eligible for their booster reserve when. ‘They are called.
Today the NHS confirmed a huge expansion of the reminder program, with the national reservation service now open to anyone over 40 to book their jabs. The interval between doses has also been shortened from six months to three months, with eligible people now able to book one month in advance – two months after their second dose.
The vaccination program will be supported by the continued development of advanced treatments. Today the Prime Minister confirmed a new national study that will see 10,000 UK patients at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, given treatment with molnupiravir to treat their symptoms at home.
The tests will also be an essential tool to control the spread given the likely increased transmissibility of Omicron. As community transmission of Omicron is now demonstrated, we intend to introduce daily contact testing for contacts of confirmed positive cases instead of the ten day self-isolation period.
Everyone should test using a lateral flow device, especially before entering a high risk environment involving people you would not normally come into contact with, or when visiting. a vulnerable person. Lateral flow devices remain free and can be picked up at local pharmacies.
From Friday, December 10, face covering will become mandatory in most indoor public places, such as cinemas, theaters and places of worship. There will be exemptions in places where it is not practical to wear one, such as when eating, drinking, or exercising. For this reason, face masks will not be required at host institutions.
From Monday, December 13, those who can work from home will be advised.
Starting Wednesday, December 15, and subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS app will become mandatory for entry to nightclubs and places where large crowds congregate – including indoor unseated events with 500 or more participants, outdoor unseated events with 4,000 or more participants and any event with 10,000 or more participants.
People will be able to demonstrate proof of two doses of the vaccine via the app. After reviewing the evidence since the emergence of Omicron, the evidence for a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.
The introduction of Covid status certification starting next Wednesday will give companies a week’s notice, as promised in the government’s proposals for the introduction of mandatory certification published in September.
A full list of advice on these changes will be available on gov.uk in the coming days. The face covering regulations will be tabled in parliament tomorrow, with the remaining regulations tabled on Monday, December 13.
Parliament will debate the measures next week and a vote is expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December.
The government will constantly monitor the data. The regulation will expire six weeks after its implementation, with a review after three weeks.
Overall, the government hopes these measures will reduce transmission and slow the spread of the Omicron variant, and continue to urge eligible people to get their recalls when called.