Plan B measures to be scrapped across England

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of C

Boris Johnson has announced that Plan B measures will be scrapped across England - Credit: PA

Plan B measures to stop the spread of the Omicron Covid variant are to be dropped across England, the prime minister has announced.

Face mask rules in classrooms will be scrapped from tomorrow and will no longer be mandatory in shops and on public transport by Thursday next week.

The news comes as Covid infection levels are falling in most parts of the UK for the first time since early December.

Boris Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons more than 90% of over-60s across the UK had now had booster vaccines to protect them, and scientists believed the Omicron wave had peaked.

Mr Johnson said the government had taken a "different path" to much of Europe and that the “data are showing that, time and again, this Government got the toughest decisions right”.

Work from home guidance will end from Thursday next week when Plan B measures lapse and mandatory Covid certification will also end.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination

The prime minister said the "extraordinary booster campaign" and the public's response has meant Plan B regulations can be allowed to expire. - Credit: PA

The prime minister said: "Today’s latest ONS data show clearly that infection levels are falling in England and while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.

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“There remain, of course, significant pressures on the NHS across our country but hospital admissions which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago have now stabilised.

"The numbers in intensive care not only remain low but are actually also falling."

"This morning, 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."

Mr Johnson also signalled his intention to remove self-isolation regulations and to treat Covid like the flu.

The prime minister added: "There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.

“The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them.

"Indeed, were the data to allow, I’d like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forward.”

Despite the World Health Organisation saying the global situation remains "challenging," the prime minister said the UK can "see the light at the end of the tunnel".

He said: “Confronted by the nation’s biggest challenge since the Second World War, and the worst pandemic since 1918, any government would get some things wrong – but this Government got the big things right.”

Mr Johnson also said restrictions on visits to care homes will be eased further, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid setting out plans “in the coming days”.

The government also plans to announce the easing of Covid travel restrictions soon.

Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer leaves BBC Broadcasting House, London, after appearing on the B

Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer leaves BBC Broadcasting House, London, after appearing on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday Morning. Picture date: Sunday January 16, 2022. - Credit: PA

Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer responded to today's announcement claiming that the prime minister is "too distracted to do the job".

He said: “The 438 deaths recorded yesterday are a solemn reminder that this pandemic is not over.

"We need to remain vigilant, learn the lessons from the Government’s mistakes, with new variants highly likely we must have a robust plan to live well with Covid, so where is it?

“He’s too distracted to do the job and it’s not just the Prime Minister who’s letting us down. Where’s the Health Secretary’s plan to prepare for another wave of infections?"