COVID: Will plan B measures be lifted in the UK?

Here are all the measures that may be scrapped in the UK at the end of the month.

COVID in the UK
© Gabe Pierce/UNSPLASH
COVID in the UK

In early December, the rise of the Omicron variant forced the British government to put plan B into action. Under the measure, face coverings became a legal requirement in most indoor settings, NHS COVID Passes were introduced in high-risk areas, and working from home was encouraged where possible.

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Scrapping plan B

According to the Financial Times, the plan will expire on 26 January and there is a high probability that ministers will not be renewing the restrictions. The decision could be triggered by the steady decline of daily COVID cases in the UK, but sources say that it could also a tactic PM Boris Johnson is using to regain popularity amidst his 'partygate' scandal. Sir Keir Starmer said on BBC's Sunday Morning programme:

I hope those restrictions can be lifted as soon as possible, but I want them to be lifted because the medical science says they should be lifted, not simply because the prime minister is in a real mess and he’s desperately trying to get out of it.

While political leaders are welcoming the possibility of scrapping plan B, the government’s scientific advisors are not certain that it’s the right decision. A recently published document covering a meeting held by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) noted that ‘the epidemic has the potential to continue to grow nationally.’ They added:

Changes in behaviour, for example if there were a reversal of current interventions (e.g. ‘Plan B’ in England) before the peak is passed, could increase the overall impact of this wave on hospitalisations.

Measures that could be removed

Along with the removal of mandatory face coverings and NHS COVID passes, the government may also be looking to make travel easier for the fully vaccinated. A source close to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told The Sunday Times that travellers who have had all their doses will be exempted from COVID testing. The insider said:

We are looking at removing all Covid tests for vaccinated travellers by the end of January, which is likely to coincide with the review of the plan B measures on 26 January.

As of now, vaccinated travellers are required to take a lateral flow test on day two of arrival in the UK. If found positive, they must isolate for a total of five days before testing for the virus once again. The government states:

You can stop self-isolating at the start of day 6 if you get 2 negative rapid lateral flow test results on days 5 and 6 and do not have a temperature. Tests must be at least 24 hours apart. If either test is positive, wait 24 hours before testing again.
COVID-19: Will Plan C restrictions be imposed in the UK? COVID-19: Will Plan C restrictions be imposed in the UK?