England: Plan B restrictions lifted despite Covid infections twice as high as when imposed
By Hamed Chapman
All Covid measures introduced to combat the Omicron variant were lifted in England Thursday despite infection rates still average around 100,000 new cases a day, twice as high as when Plan B restrictions were announced on December 8.
The restrictions including ordering people to work from home, wearing masks in public places and using vaccine passes to access to nightclubs and venues with large crowds were aimed to slow the spread of the highly infectious variant but which were continually undermined by reports of a series of illegal parties at Downing Street.
The policy of the Government has been largely limited to the reliance of mass vaccinations that reduce symptoms but seem to have limited effect on the spread of the deadly virus with Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, facing the threat of rebellions from sections of right-wing Tory MPs opposed to restrictions upon their ‘freedoms.’
“The success of our booster rollout, the tireless work of the NHS and the amazing public response means Plan B measures have ended in England today,” Johnson said in a Tweet.
“The pandemic is not over – everyone should remain cautious, and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet got their vaccine to come forward,” the Tweet added.
“Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country,’ Health Secretary, Sajid Javid ,said.
“As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away so if you haven’t already – please come forward for your first, second or booster jab,” Javid said in a statement to mark the lifting of the limited restrictions.
The removal, announced last week, were said to have followed a review of data including infections, vaccine efficacy, COVID-19 pressures on the NHS, workforce absences, public behaviours, and views from the scientific community. It has been at odds though with mounting death tolls exceeding over 300 a day.
But some shops, including several supermarkets, have said they will continue to ask people to wear masks even without legal requirement. Rail operators also said passengers would be expected to wear face coverings, but was being done through encouragement since customers could not be forced to comply.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said masks will remain mandatory on Transport for London services, calling on people to “do the right thing”. He said the Government should rethink their plans and keep legislation in place to make them mandatory on public transport as well as in shops and indoor public venues.
Secondary schools across England, suffering staff shortages through Covid infections, also said they will encourage pupils to wear masks indoors while the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly. This was despite threats by Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, warning that “all schools” should ban them.
The latest official figures show there were 102,292 new cases and 346 new deaths from Covid in the UK on Wednesday compared with 94,096 cases and 439 deaths on Tuesday. On Dec 9 there were 50,000 daily cases and 148 deaths recorded.
[Archive Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Covid-19 press conference in Downing Street media briefing room on 4 January. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street]
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