British PM Johnson imposes COVID ‘Plan B’ to comprise Omicron

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed more durable COVID-19 restrictions in England, ordering individuals to work from home, put on masks in public locations and use vaccine passes to sluggish the unfold of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Undermined by accusations that his workers partied at Downing Street throughout a Christmas lockdown final 12 months, Johnson mentioned on Wednesday that Omicron was spreading quickly and he had no alternative however to move to “Plan B” whereas a vaccine booster programme rolls out.

While nonetheless a good distance from the total lockdowns imposed earlier within the pandemic, the brand new measures had been described as a “hammer blow” for metropolis centre eating places, cafes and retailers which might be determined for Christmas commerce to rebuild their funds.

Many lawmakers in Johnson’s personal get together are additionally indignant with the brand new restrictions, fearing the impact they are going to have after the financial system shrank by a historic 10 p.c final 12 months.

“While the picture may get better, and I sincerely hope that it will, we know that the remorseless logic of exponential growth could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations and therefore, sadly, in deaths,” Johnson advised a information convention.

Sterling fell sharply when information first emerged on Wednesday that “Plan B” measures had been imminent and buyers pared again their bets on a Bank of England rate of interest improve subsequent week.

Johnson, who lifted most COVID restrictions in England in July following a speedy vaccine rollout, had pledged to navigate the winter with out resorting to a fourth COVID-19 lockdown, however had saved a so-called “Plan B” in reserve.

Part of these measures, resembling reintroducing masks on public transport and in retailers, had already been introduced in, however on Wednesday, Johnson mentioned individuals must also now work from home.

Face masks will probably be required in public venues, resembling theatres and cinemas, and a COVID go will probably be obligatory for entry to nightclubs and venues with giant crowds.

Johnson mentioned the brand new measures had been wanted after 568 circumstances of Omicron had been discovered within the nation, with knowledge suggesting its doubling time for infections could possibly be between two and three days.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid mentioned officers estimated that the variety of Omicron infections was truly approximately 20 instances greater than the variety of confirmed circumstances, that means they could possibly be nearer to 10,000.

Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons mentioned that latest accusations that Johnson’s workers partied at Downing Street throughout a Christmas lockdown final 12 months have undermined his legitimacy.

A leaked video confirmed senior workers laughing and joking about the way to clarify a gathering in Downing Street throughout a Christmas COVID-19 lockdown final 12 months. Johnson has apologised.

Simmons mentioned the general public is asking how Johnson can “really be a moral authority, guiding the public on what to do” after dodging questions in regards to the Christmas get together final 12 months, which was “offensive to the British public”.

‘Hammer blow’

Some companies reacted to the brand new restrictions, introduced as Christmas approaches, with incredulity.

“The renewed ‘work from home’ order during the most important trading period of the year is a hammer blow for our retail and leisure tenants,” mentioned Jace Tyrrell, CEO of New West End Company.

While many companies tailored effectively to working from home, sectors resembling hospitality, leisure and travel have been hit by enormous losses. Unlike earlier lockdowns, a furlough job help scheme can also be not out there.

A ballot from Savanta ComRes additionally urged some individuals could also be much less prepared to observe new restrictions following the revelations in regards to the Downing Street get together.

The prime minister additionally mentioned COVID restrictions couldn’t final ceaselessly and the nation might must have “a conversation” about what to do when a considerable proportion of the inhabitants refuses to get a vaccine.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their very own COVID restrictions and had already set more durable rules.

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