"we are seeing growth in cases here in the UK"
Amid concern over the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced tougher Covid-19 measures in England.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference on the evening of December 8, 2021, Mr Johnson announced the measures in the government’s ‘Plan B’ for dealing with Covid-19 this winter.
He said it had become “increasingly clear” that Omicron is “growing much faster” than the previous Delta variant and was “spreading rapidly all around the world”.
He added it was “the proportionate and the responsible thing” to introduce stronger Covid-19 restrictions.
The new Covid-19 measures in England announced by the Prime Minister included:
- The reintroduction of the work from home order, for those who can, from December 13, 2021.
- The extension of mandatory facemask wearing to “most public indoor venues”, including theatres and cinemas. However, there will be exemptions “where it is not practical”, such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.
- The NHS Covid pass, commonly referred to as a vaccine passport, will be made mandatory in a week’s time for nightclubs and large events. People can show either proof of two vaccine doses or a negative lateral flow test result.
The announcement comes just hours after another 131 cases of Omicron were recorded in the UK, taking the total to 568.
The variant, first detected in South Africa, is feared to be more transmissible than the Delta strain.
It marks the second day in a row that more than 100 cases of the new variant have been reported.
But Mr Johnson warned the “true number” of Omicron cases was “certain to be much higher”.
He added: “Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron in the UK could currently be between two and three days.
“And while there are some limits to what we can learn from South Africa – because of the different rates of vaccination and different rates of previous infection – we are seeing growth in cases here in the UK that mirrors the rapid increases previously seen in South Africa.
“South Africa is also seeing hospitalisations roughly doubling in a week, meaning that we can’t yet assume Omicron is less severe than previous variants.”
However, some believe the announcement has been done to divert attention away from the outrage over a Christmas party that allegedly took place in 10 Downing Street in December 2020, when strict coronavirus rules were in place.