England is set to get rid of essentially all of its COVID-19 restrictions, as was announced by United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.
Mandatory mask-wearing on public transportation and in stores, guidelines on working from home, as well as vaccine certifications will be ended next week. Johnson said that the rule making individuals prove recent recovery from a coronavirus infection or display a vaccine certificate to attend certain large events will stop, as well.
The Guardian reported, “The prime minister also told the Commons that the legal requirement on people with coronavirus to self-isolate would be allowed to lapse when the regulations expired on 24 March, and that date could be brought forward.”
Johnson also stated that students will no longer be required to wear masks at secondary schools.
“From tomorrow we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas,” Johnson told the Commons.
“In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one,” he noted.
He pointed to the booster efforts and the public’s response as reasons for the change.
“We can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire. As a result, from the start of Thursday next week, mandatory certification will end,” Johnson said. “Organizations can, of course, choose to use the NHS COVID pass voluntarily, but we will end the compulsory use of COVID safety certification in England.”
“And having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse, the government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere,” Johnson confirmed to applause. “… In the country at large, we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.”
BREAKING: Boris Johnson confirms Plan B Covid curbs in England will expire next week, ending guidance to work from home and mandatory wearing of face maskshttps://t.co/6dcruPkKwD pic.twitter.com/ol4SqWSd0r
— Bloomberg UK (@BloombergUK) January 19, 2022
“But we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one,” he continued.
Johnson also discussed the Omicron variant, saying, “We are the first to emerge from the Omicron wave.”
“The data are showing that time and again, this government got the toughest decisions right,” Mr. Johnson added, discussing how other European countries had reinstated lockdowns and all but called off the Christmas holiday.
Johnson has faced a slew of bad press over allegations regarding Downing Street parties that were held during lockdowns in 2020. Some said he is making an effort to appeal to the Conservative wing of government and regain his popularity in taking these steps. However, some of the restrictions were already set to expire soon.
Around two-thirds of Britons who are eligible to receive the booster shot have done so. Johnson noted that as the disease turns into an endemic situation in the United Kingdom — rather than an epidemic — the rules will be relaxed into guidelines or advice.
In early January, Johnson announced that he was planning to “ride out” the Omicron variant, and that he was not seeking to impose more restrictions, per The Daily Wire.
“The prime minister said there was a ‘good chance’ he would not impose fresh measures and would recommend continuing the government’s ‘Plan B’ strategy in England to ministers on Wednesday,” the BBC reported at the time.