Major changes to Covid rules take effect in England today (27 January) as all Plan B measures are dropped.
The Prime Minister confirmed last week that the restrictions brought in to tackle rising cases at the end of last year can now be eased owing to a decline in infections, and a belief among scientists that the Omicron wave has peaked.
Boris Johnson told MPs in the Commons: “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.
"We will set out our long-term strategy for living with Covid 19, explaining how we hope and intend to protect our liberty and avoid restrictions in future by relying instead on medical advances – especially the vaccines which have already saved so many lives.
"But to make that possible, we must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter."
Work-from-home guidance was scrapped last week, along with the requirement to wear face masks in school classrooms, and several other rule changes take effect from today.
Under Plan A, the government will instead offer guidance rather than mandatory rules, and will focus on the booster and vaccine rollout as the first line of defence against coronavirus.
What Covid rules are changing from 27 January?
The following changes to Covid-19 restrictions in England take effect from Thursday 27 January:
Nightclubs and other large venues and events will no longer require a Covid pass for entry, although some may continue asking for one on a voluntary basis.
The change means people will no longer have to show proof of their vaccination status or a recent negative test to gain entry.
Face masks will no longer be required by law in any setting, although guidance will still suggest that coverings should be considered in enclosed and crowded spaces.
Mr Johnson told MPs: “In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet – but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
Additionally, the Department for Education will remove national guidance on the use of face coverings in communal areas of schools.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said masks could still be required in the event of Covid-19 outbreaks, but only if he approves a request.
Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Waitrose said that customers will continue to be asked to wear masks in stores across England, unless they have a medical exemption, while in London, commuters will still be required to wear face coverings on all London transport as masks remain a “condition of carriage” on Transport for London (TfL) services.
What about self-isolation rules?
The legal requirement to self-isolate if you have Covid-19 is expected to expire on 24 March, meaning people should continue to quarantine if they test positive until then.
Mr Johnson has said he hopes to bring this date forward if the data allows.
The Prime Minister has signalled his intention to start treating Covid-19 more like flu, meaning legal requirements will instead be replaced with guidance for people to follow.
He told MPs: “On Monday (17 January) we reduced the isolation period to five full days with two negative tests, and 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.
“As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.
“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.”
What about travel?
From 11 February, double vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take a Covid-19 test when arriving in the UK.
The definition of fully vaccinated in the UK is currently “two doses of an approved vaccination or one dose of a Janssen vaccine”, although ministers have suggested that this could soon be changed to include a booster dose.
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated will no longer be required to take a day eight test after arrival, or to self-isolate.
However, they will still need to fill out a passenger locator form to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken two days before travel, and they must still take a post-arrival PCR test.
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