Changes to Covid rules in England could be made in the coming weeks following the review of Plan B measures.
The UK government is due to review current restrictions on 26 January when it will be decided if rules need to remain in place, or if measures can be relaxed.
It is expected that some restrictions will soon be eased now that coronavirus case numbers are starting to decline after the Omicron variant caused a huge spike in infections over the festive period.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged in the Commons this week that hospitals across the country are still facing “significant pressure”, but said there are “encouraging signs” case numbers are starting to drop.
Mr Javid said there has not been an increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care, while the rate of hospitalisation from coronavirus also appears to be slowing down.
He said: “Due to the lag between infections and hospitalisations, the NHS will remain under significant pressure over the next few weeks.
“It is encouraging, however, that during this wave we have not seen an increase in Covid-19 intensive care patients, and there are already early signs that the rate of hospitalisation is starting to slow.
“We know that Omicron is less severe. But no-one should be under any illusions - it is severe for anyone that ends up in hospital, and that’s far more likely if you have not had the jab."
With Plan B measures due to be reviewed before the end of the month, here’s all the changes that could be made to rules in England.
The requirement to show a Covid pass to access certain venues in England is not expected to be renewed if the Department of Health argues it is no longer needed.
Mr Javid is understood to have concluded that the certification policy is no longer required now that there are “encouraging signs” coronavirus infections are beginning to drop.
If approved, it will mean people will no longer have to show proof of their vaccination status or a recent negative test to gain entry to nightclubs and large venues and events.
It is expected that the requirement to show Covid-19 certification - which includes proof of vaccination or a recent negative test - will not be renewed if the Department of Health argues it is no longer needed.
Work from home guidance could potentially be scrapped as well, as employers look to get staff back into offices.
As such, it is likely that the only coronavirus restrictions that will continue following the review is the wearing of face masks in indoor venues.
Plan B measures are due to expire on 26 January, but if the data does not support this the date could be extended, or it may be decided that only certain measures need to remain in place longer.
Seven day testing for close contacts
The requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 could be reduced following the Plan B review.
The rule was introduced late last year to allow those who are double jabbed to avoid quarantine, but it could be set to change following the recent announcement on self-isolation rules.
From Monday (17 January), anyone in England who tests positive for Covid-19 will be allowed to leave self-isolation after five full days, provided they get a negative lateral flow test result on day five and six.
However, the rules for contacts of people with Covid-19 have not yet changed.
This means that fully vaccinated individuals who are identified as a contact still need to take daily rapid lateral flow tests for seven days, but are not legally required to self-isolate. Unvaccinated contacts are still legally required to self-isolate for the full 10-day period.
The government has now indicated this requirement could be reduced.
A government statement said: “In line with today’s (13 January) announcement, the government will also consider the guidance for close contacts of people with Covid-19, including around the advice for fully vaccinated contacts to take daily LFDs for 7 days.”
‘Fully vaccinated’ to include booster dose
The government has previously said it will update its definition of ‘fully vaccinated to include a booster dose in England.
This means that if Covid passes remain, it will be a requirement to show proof of three vaccine doses to gain entry into certain venues, such as nightclubs.
However, a date for this change has not yet been confirmed.
Mr Javid said in the Commons last month: “You will need to show a negative lateral flow test to get into nightclubs and large events, with an exemption for the double vaccinated.
“Once all adults have had a reasonable chance to get their booster jab we intend to change this exemption to require a booster dose.”
Working from home
Work from home guidance could potentially be scrapped following the Plan B review, as employers look to get staff back into offices.
The guidance was introduced in England in November after Covid-19 cases started rising.
Now that infection rates appear to be slowing, it looks likely this advice will be lifted.
It is expected that the only coronavirus restriction that will continue following the Plan B review is the wearing of face masks in indoor venues and on public transport.
While all Plan B measures are due to expire on 26 January, the government has not yet made any suggestions that this rule will be lifted.
Health experts will assess whether it is safe to remove this measure before the government makes any changes.
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