UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered citizens to work from home if possible, made masks mandatory in certain indoor venues and is introducing “Covid passports” as a form of entry.
Delivering a press conference in the last few minutes, Johnson said the dangerous Omicron variant is doubling infections every two-to-three days, while there are at least 568 known cases, although in reality many more.
Johnson has kickstarted “Plan B”, ordering the country to work from home wherever possible and extending the legal requirement for people to wear masks in most public indoor venues including theatres and cinemas.
Responding to recent pressure, Johnson is also introducing a form of “Covid passport”, with people now required to show proof of double vaccination for entry into indoor venues of more than 500 capacity, outdoor venues of more than 4,000 and any venue above 10,000. A negative lateral flow test will also count as proof.
The restrictions will come into place in a week to give businesses time to adapt.
The government will consider lifting them based on four criteria: the efficacy of the UK’s booster jab rollout, the severity of Omicron, its speed and the rate of hospitalizations.
“We need to slow the spread of the virus to buy ourselves the time to get more boosters into arms, especially in older and more vulnerable people,” said Johnson. “If boosters are capable of keeping Omicron in equilibrium then we will be able to move on as before.”
Speaking to Deadline, John McVay, the CEO of UK producer trade body Pact, said the new rules will make little difference to the nation’s TV and film production, which has abided by stringent Covid-19 protocols for more than a year.
A potential relaxation of the protocols had been under discussion, added McVay, but this will now be put on hold as it requires the government’s seal of approval.
“There was a little twinkle in the eye a few weeks ago when case numbers were dropping,” he added. “We talked about downgrading the protocols or making them more flexible but, depending how this variant goes, I imagine we’ll be continuing with them for some time.”
The move comes with the Conservative government in crisis over reports that it held a Christmas party last year, which would have gone against social distancing rules at the time, although Downing Street insists the party didn’t take place.
Earlier today, Johnson’s former Press Secretary Allegra Stratton resigned after footage of her joking about this Christmas party was leaked to ITV.
Well-known UK TV presenters Ant and Dec joked about the scandal on last night’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, which was watched by more than 5M people.
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