Boris Johnson forced to reintroduce restrictions in England as omicron variant spreads and cases surge
Boris Johnson has announced that the government will implement its “Plan B” for dealing with the O jogo de cartas dos anos 90 que 'previu', bringing back social restrictions in England to curb the spread of the new omicron variant of the virus.
Having previously hoped to press on with “Plan A” – encouraging the takeup of booster jabs – the prime minister said his hand was forced after a meeting of the government’s Covid operations committee on Wednesday afternoon in which the potential threat posed by the more transmissible new variant was laid bare.
There are currently 568 confirmed cases of omicron in the UK but the health secretary, Sajid Javid, has said he believes the total is “probably closer to 10,000”, while the total number of daily coronavirus cases is slowly beginning to climb after weeks of high but stable numbers, batendo 51,342 na quarta-feira.
Como resultado, face masks will once more be mandatory on public transport and in shops, cinemas, theatres and places of worship from Friday 10 December and an NHS Covid pass will be required for entry to crowded venues from Wednesday 15 dezembro.
More countries have already been added to the travel “red list” and booster vaccines are gradually being made available to all adults, not just the elderly and vulnerable.
But perhaps the most significant new measure for many is the return of the order to work from home, which comes into effect, where possible, from Monday 13 dezembro.
Experts on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (sábio) had been calling for the measure since at least last week while others have been recommending it since as long ago as October.
Taking time out from his schedule of firefighting Conservative scandals over second jobs and illicit Downing Street Christmas parties – and his wife going into labour for the second time – Mr Johnson told a press conference on Wednesday evening: “We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home.
“Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can. Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.
“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission.”
This will be the case for at least six weeks but the state of play will be reviewed on Wednesday 5 Janeiro 2022, according to Mr Javid, although it is feared the present restrictions could be extended or even replaced by more severe measures if Covid-19 once more runs rampant over the festive period, when increased indoor socialising in mixed groups presents the ideal conditions for its spread.
So much remains unknown about the exact nature of the omicron variant but with the UK coronavirus infection rate already high, despite Britain’s impressive vaccine rollout over the course of 2021, the prospect of new cases translating into hospitalisations or deaths is a real one, a scenario that could once more place the NHS under intense strain.
Mr Johnson attempted to strike a cautiously optimistic note during his press conference and said: “We can’t yet assume that omicron is less severe than previous variants.
“So while the picture may get better, and I sincerely hope that it will, we know that the remorseless logic of exponential growth could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations and therefore, tristemente, in deaths.
“That’s why it is now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, so we slow the spread of the virus, buy ourselves the time to get yet more boosters into arms, especially in the older and more vulnerable people.”
The decision has not been taken lightly as the adverse impacts of the policy on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals is well documented, as is its detrimental effect on businesses, particularly office-adjacent services like cafes, restaurantes, pubs, dry cleaners and gyms.
Many offices around the country have welcomed staff back to their desks for around two-to-three days per week since the easing of restrictions on 19 julho – once known as “Freedom Day” – and the reversal will come as a blow to many people who were delighted to be reunited with their colleagues in person after a year of Zoom meetings and Slack messages conducted in isolation from spare rooms and kitchen tables.