"Face coverings will become compulsory on public transport"
UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the return of face masks in shops and public transport at a Number 10 press conference held on Saturday, November 27, 2021.
This comes after the “worst ever” variant of Covid-19 is started to impact the country. The Omicron variant of coronavirus that stems from southern African countries has started to make a presence in the UK.
Initial cases of this variant which spreads more easily and is potentially more resistant to vaccinations were found on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, instigating a reaction from the government.
With the need to understand more about this variant, Johnson said:
“We need to buy time for our scientists to understand exactly what we’re dealing with and for us to get more people vaccinated and above all to get more people boosted.”
The PM was clear on trying to combat the spread of this variant by introducing new rules on travel and face coverings saying:
“We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it altogether.”
He said that by “tightening up” the rules on face coverings in shops and public transport would be extra measures that they need to take and that you would have “you have to wear them”.
He stated that more on the face-covering rules will be revealed by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid.
A tweet from the official Number 10 Twitter account subsequently clarified that face masks would not be required to be worn in the hospitality sector, such as in pubs and restaurants. The tweet stated:
“Face coverings will become compulsory on public transport and in shops. Not including hospitality.”
Restrictions were also announced related to travel, where the PM was adamant about not stopping people from travelling, saying:
“We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.”
Self-isolation rules for those who might have contact with people suffering from the Omicron variant were also announced. He said:
“We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status.”
PM Johnson emphasised on the matter of vaccination boosting:
“We need to bolster our protections against this new variant.”
“We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron.
“But we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection and if you are boosted your response is likely to be stronger.”
The PM confirmed that the booster campaign for vaccinations will be boosted further.
The measures set out by the PM in his conference are to be in place for three weeks as of the announcement on Saturday giving time to help understand more about the variant and the effectiveness of vaccinations against Omicron.
The PM concluded his speech by saying that this was the “responsible course of action” to minimise the spread of this variant and to “protect the gains we have worked for so hard.”
Further countries added to the England travel red list were also part of the action taken by the government. South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are all on the list.