Omicron: What is Plan B and will Boris Johnson announce COVID restrictions soon?

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  • Covid-19
    Covid-19
  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 03, 2021: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps out from 10 Downing Street to welcome Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah (not pictured) ahead of their bilateral meeting on December 03, 2021 in London, England. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
The prime minister is currently deciding whether to introduce Plan B COVID measures to control the spread of the virus amid an outbreak of new variant Omicron. (Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson is understood to be poised to introduce Plan B COVID restrictions in a bid to curb infections and contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

Multiple reports have emerged that the PM is planning to introduce measures this week, with an announcement as soon as Wednesday, amid growing fears over the risks posed by Omicron.

Responding to reports, Downing Street sources said “no decisions have been made”.

The UK reported 45,691 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. The seven-day rolling rate of new cases is 12.1% higher than this time last week.

A further 101 cases of Omicron were confirmed, bringing the UK total to 437.

What is Plan B?

The prime minister revealed his COVID Winter Plan in November, outlining possible 'Plan B' measures that could be taken if required.

The government said the restrictions would be brought in if "the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure."

Plan B measures include:

  • Vaccine passports for certain large-scale events

  • Mandatory face coverings in indoor settings

  • Instructions to work from home if possible

  • A communication campaign to tell the public that the risk level has increased and that more caution is needed

Watch: Bookings cancelled and plans changed as 'chilling talk of Plan B' hits hospitality sector

Some measures have already been introduced in order to try and contain the spread of Omicron, including mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport, and tighter restrictions and testing requirements for travellers.

Why might Plan B be necessary?

The government has so far been adamant that there is no need to activate its Plan B.

However, the emergence and spread of Omicron has changed the picture, with Johnson telling the Cabinet on Tuesday that “early indications were that it was more transmissible” than Delta.

A more infectious variant would require more stringent measures in order to keep hospitalisations at a level that can be sustained by the NHS.

The government has so far relied on vaccinations to stop the NHS being overwhelmed, and tighter rules could play a role in slowing the spread of the variant in order to allow more time for the booster jab vaccination campaign to progress.

Boris Johnson is understood to be poised to introduce Plan B COVID restrictions in a bid to curb infections and contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
Boris Johnson former spokesperson Allegra Stratton was caught on camera making the comments about the alleged Christmas party at No.10. (ITV News)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market which has been set up in Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday November 30, 2021.
Boris Johnson has not denied a gathering took place in Downing Street last Christmas during lockdown. He has said any event abided by all COVID rules, without explaining how that could be possible. (PA Images)

The introduction of new restrictions would be a difficult move for the prime minister, who is under phenomenal pressure over allegations No 10 staff breached lockdown rules by holding a Christmas party last December.

Footage emerged on Tuesday night of senior aides joking about the party just days after it reportedly occurred in the run-up to Christmas 2020, casting doubt over Johnson's assertion that any event followed all COVID rules.

The PM's official spokesperson has denied multiple times that a party ever happened.

Watch: Starmer urges PM to 'be honest' about Tory Christmas party

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