He confirmed the move in a Downing Street news conference yesterday evening.
In response to and in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron variant in England, the Prime Minister said in the news briefing yesterday – which he hosting alongside Professor Chris Whitty, and Sir Patrick Vallance – that it was now the “proportionate and responsible thing to move to Plan B”, adding that the reason for this being that it’s become “increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant.”
Mr Johnson added: “We can’t yet assume that Omicron is less severe… and it could lead to a big to a big increase in hospitalisations and sadly deaths.”
The confirmation of the move to ‘Plan B’ comes after the Prime Minister has continued to deny that a Christmas party that broke COVID-19 restrictions took place at Downing Street last December, with many accusing the government of introducing
He said in the conference that he “understands how infuriating it must be” to hear of rules being broken by the people who set them in the first place.
‘Plan B’ was first referenced back in September when the government set out its plan for tackling coronavirus over the winter period, with a set of measures to prevent the NHS “coming under unsustainable pressure”.
But what exactly is Plan B? What are the new measures that are set to be introduced in England? And when do they take effect?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is ‘Plan B? ‘?
As mentioned, the government outlined a set of measures as part of its Autumn and Winter COVID plan that would be brought in “if the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure”.
Those measures are:
Guidance to work from home “if you can”.
The reintroduction of a legal requirement to wear face masks in “most public indoor venues”, including theatres and cinemas – with exceptions “where it’s not practical, including while eating, drinking, exercising or singing”.
NHS COVID passes for nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Daily testing for people identified as a contact of a COVID-19 case – with isolation required only for people who test positive.
Plan B was drawn up before the Omicron variant emerged, and only applies to England.
The government had already announced that as of 30 November, the wearing of face coverings would become a legal requirement in shops, banks, post offices, hairdressers, and on public transport in England – but from Friday 10 December, they will be mandatory in “most public indoor venues.”
The reintroduction of the guidance to work from home “if you can” will take effect from Monday 13 December.
NHS Covid Passes will be introduced from Wednesday 15 November.
The measures will be debated in parliament next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December.
How long will the measures be in place for?
The government says it will keep the data under “constant review”.
Just like it has been throughout the COVD-19 pandemic, there will be a review of the measures after three weeks, but these regulations are set to expire six weeks after implementation.
Taken together, the government says it is “hopeful” these measures will reduce transmission and slow the spread of the Omicron variant, and will continue to urge those eligible to get their boosters jabs when called.
Featured Image – Unsplash | NHS
New cycle lanes and beer gardens closed as Northern Quarter building deemed ‘unsafe’
A section of the new cycleway through the Northern Quarter has been temporarily closed just weeks after opening, after a historic building was deemed to be ‘unsafe’.
Metal fences have now been erected on Thomas Street, blocking part of the cycle lanes and taking over valuable outdoor space for the bars and restaurants along the street.
The building in question stands on the corner of Thomas Street and John Street, once home to the Al Faisal takeaway.
It’s part of a block of 19th century properties in the area that back in 2018 were deemed to be in ”imminent danger of collapse’.
Councillors now say that the Northern Quarter building is unsafe, and will need to be propped up with scaffolding.
The owners of the building want to protect its historic facade but are unable to begin work immediately due to the high construction costs.
But until the scaffolding can be built, temporary fencing has been erected to protect members of the public.
It’s understood that the work will take up to 10 working days to complete.
Several images of the fencing have been circulation on social media, with the NQHQ account tweeting: “If you thought the cycleway through the Northern Quarter was sh*t…..well it just got sh*tter.”
Piccadilly Labour have said: “Building on the corner unfortunately deemed unsafe. Cllr @JonConnorLyons met with the owners who are putting up scaffolding and want to preserve the facade of the building – current construction costs are incredibly high for them to proceed with the development plans this year.”
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons then added: “Winter weather has made the building vulnerable & cracks have formed which has resulted in the building having to be supported by scaffolding, whilst this happens, these fences have been put up to protect the public. Some reveal in this sort – that is a shame.”
Although the fencing is there in the public’s interest, several local hospitality businesses are concerned about the impact this will have on trade – especially as the fencing has appeared during the heatwave, when punters will be wanting to be outdoors to make the most of the sunny weather.
The Smithfield Social, which is part-owned by the Courteeners’ Liam Fray, has lost a chunk of its outdoor seating – though it does still have space for tables on Edge Street.
A spokesperson for the bar said: “The building works which commenced yesterday have impacted our outside trade significantly.
“We usually have eight tables out the front but after lengthy talks with councils and licensing we have come up with a solution which means we now have a severely reduced area with only four tables.
“The area seems to be an after thought as we are the only business affected by it. Fierce have moved their area but they do not lose any space.
“I have no doubt that we have lost significant patronage because of this, as who wants to sit outside with heavy machinery next to you and dust being blown in your face? Quite unfortunate timing with the great weather we are forecast to have over the coming days.”
The Manc has approached Manchester City Council for comment.
Featured image: The Manc Group
New stations appear across Manchester for city’s rentable ‘Burnham bike’ scheme
The roll-out of Greater Manchester’s Bee Bike cycle hire scheme has stepped up a gear, with new docking stations appearing across the city centre.
The scheme, nicknamed the ‘Burnham bikes’ as a nod to London’s ‘Boris bikes’, initially launched in Salford and along the Oxford Road corridor.
Several new yellow stations have appeared around Manchester now, with plenty more on the way.
The next phase of the roll-out of the Bee Bikes has seen stations installed around St Peter’s Square and Manchester Central.
By the time the scheme is complete, bike numbers will increase to 1,500, which will include 300 e-bikes.
It’s all part of the vision for a Bee Network – a joined-up, integrated public transport network across the region.
And it’s certainly off to a more successful start than Mobike, which famously withdrew from Manchester due to high levels of vandalism and theft.
The Bee Bikes are funded by TgGM and operated by Beryl, which runs similar schemes in London, Watford and Bournemouth.
Richard Nickson, programme director, Cycling and Walking at Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “The cycle hire scheme has really taken off in Greater Manchester since it was first introduced, and we are seeing significant numbers of riders and distances travelled by on the bikes- which is fantastic, particularly as we are still in the early days of the scheme’s roll out.
“The next phase of the roll-out has now started in Manchester city centre, with new stations installed at key locations including Manchester Central Library, Manchester Central Convention Centre and St Peter’s Square.