After two cases of the feared strain were identified in Essex and Nottingham, the Prime Minister announced the new limitations this evening. Hence, in reaction to the new Omicron variant, face masks will be required in shops and on public transportation in England starting Tuesday.
The government has refrained from extending vaccine passports in England and suggested working from home to avoid the spread of the virus. This works as a part of its Strategy B - a backup plan in case, COVID-19 intervention is required to defend the NHS. Health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that the face mask regulations would take effect on Tuesday, however, it is expected the additional restrictions would be overturned within weeks.
Face masks are compulsory here
Since the spread of the new variant is yet again a concern for the UK, face masks have made a comeback to avoid a second Christmas lockdown. Unless they are medically exempted, everyone in England will be required to wear a face-covering in stores, museums, and public transportation. The Brits became mask free since July 19 -Freedom Day, when all restrictions were ended.
While the government has ordered people to wear face masks in some circumstances, businesses and individuals are essentially free to choose when and how they cover up. Following the lifting of the restrictions, some businesses, such as Transport for London, continued to require customers to wear face coverings. Only children under the age of 11, adults with breathing issues, mental illness or physical disabilities, are not required to wear masks in public. Although it is a personal option to wear an exemption card and not required by law.
Pubs and Restaurant still remain mask free
In accordance with the rest of the UK, face masks are not required in pubs and restaurants as of now. Masks are now only needed in stores and on public transportation. The restrictions also do not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The government explained,
The reason we've set out these measures yesterday is to protect the progress we've made so we can all continue to enjoy Christmas with our families.
Scientists are still learning more about the Omicron and will soon have a better sense of what restrictions could be needed to stop the new strain from spreading. The government also plans to lay in further restrictions, if required, to slow down the variant from spreading in the UK.