England lifts COVID-19 restrictions as Omicron threat recedes

LONDON: Most coronavirus restrictions including mandatory face masks were lifted in England on Thursday (Jan 27), after Britain’s government said its vaccine booster roll-out successfully reduced serious illness and COVID-19 hospitalisations.

From Thursday, face coverings are no longer required by law anywhere in England, and a legal requirement for COVID-19 passes for entry into nightclubs and other large venues has been scrapped.

The government last week dropped its advice for people to work from home as well as guidance for face coverings in classrooms.

The so-called “Plan B” measures were introduced in early December to stop the rapid spread of the Omicron variant from overwhelming health services and to buy time for the population to get its booster vaccine shot.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government’s vaccine roll-out, testing and development of antiviral treatments combine to make “some of the strongest defenses in Europe”, allowing a “cautious return” to normality.

But he added that “as we learn to live with COVID, we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away”. While infections continue to fall, health officials said that Omicron remained prevalent across the country, especially among children and the elderly.

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