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Plan B restrictions in England to be lifted from next week

19th January 2022

In an address to MPs in the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Plan B measures, which have been in place in England since mid-December, will be lifted from next Thursday the 27th of January.

Despite this, Boris Johnson called on the public to continue to exercise caution. He stated that the pandemic is not over and that Omicron is “not a mild disease for everyone, especially if you are not vaccinated.”

What does this mean?

The lifting of Plan B restrictions in England means that, from next Thursday, COVID passes will no longer be required to enter certain venues and attend certain events. Instead, at their own discretion, businesses will be able to decide whether to demand that people show them before entering their venues.

Moreover, the announcement also means that compulsory mask-wearing in shops and in public settings will no longer be required.

It also sees an end to the guidance to work-from-home where possible. This may be welcomed by office-based businesses who have been discouraged from utilising their workplace over the last month or so, whilst still being expected to pay rent.

Additionally, the news may come as a boost to the retail and hospitality businesses located within office-dominated areas, particularly in major cities, as there had been a severe impact on their operations caused by the drop in commuter footfall.

At the beginning of the month, the chief executive of Fullers commented that 20 of the company’s pubs were forced to close for a temporary period before Christmas due to the substantial drop in sales. He attributed this, at least in part, to the UK Government’s reintroduction of the Plan B restrictions, work-from-home guidance and the subsequent reduction in worker footfall around their various locations.

There was a significant drop in office occupancy levels across the UK following the original Plan B announcement in December, from 20.8% the week before to 10.7% the week after. Given the relatively slow rise in occupancy levels up to that point, many suspect that there will be a very gradual return to the office through Q1 2022.

Prior to the Prime Minister announcing the lifting of Plan B restrictions, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, expressed his concern that individuals may interpret this to mean that we are through the pandemic.

He stated that we would “see infection rates rise again and we’ll see hospital numbers rise again” if the general public became complacent.

Moreover, he added that, regardless of the fact that the 7-day average for the number of daily confirmed cases has continued to fall in recent weeks, the number of people in hospital with COVID is still high “and that is with restrictions.”

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