Masks mandatory in shops and public transport from Tuesday amid new fears of variants
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he hoped tougher rules would be “temporary” – and said the government was “far from” introducing new restrictions
Face masks will become mandatory again in shops and on public transport from Tuesday, the health secretary said.
Sajid Javid has said he hopes the stricter rules on face coverings in England will be “temporary” as ministers reimpose some measures amid fears the new strain may escape existing vaccines.
Mr Javid reiterated that there had been two confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant in Essex and Nottingham, which was first detected by scientists in South Africa.
A number of southern African countries have been added to the travel red list, which arrivals have required to stay in government-backed quarantine hotels from 4 a.m. on Sunday.
All international arrivals will need to take a PCR test before the end of their second day in the UK and self-isolate while awaiting their result.
Mr Javid said the new rule would go into effect “as soon as possible,” but a post on the passenger tracking form section of the government website said that would change as of 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
It states: ‘After 4 a.m. on Tuesday November 30, 2021, lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted and all travelers arriving in the UK will need to book and take the Covid-19 PCR tests. “
Boris Johnson set out new Covid restrictions at a press conference on Saturday following the emergence of the disturbing new strain, which is believed to be more transmissible than the Delta variant which has spread across the world.
The government is scrambling to give scientists time to determine if the Omicron variant can escape existing Covid vaccines.
Mr Javid gave more details on the plan to bring back the mandatory wearing of the mask after the PM was accused of being vague on the details.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: âDoing it in this proportionate way where it’s for public transport, it’s for outlets, I think that’s the right level of response on masks.
“It will be through government regulation and that means, I think, people will take it seriously.”
Pressed on whether people will follow the rules, Mr Javid said “people will take it more seriously” following the announcement of the new variant.
âI hope this is something that we can do away with within a few weeks,â he said.
âBut I think in terms of progress we want life to get back to normal, but at this point, given what we know about this variant and the expert advice that has been received, I think that ‘it is right to take proportionate and balanced measures. “
Mr Javid said the UK was ‘far from’ reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to tackle the virus, fearing tighter restrictions would be imposed before Christmas.
He said: âWe now know that these types of measures come at a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid-related health outcomes, such as the impact on mental health.
“So if we were to make such decisions, they would have to be taken very, very carefully and we’re not there yet, we’re far from it.”
The Prime Minister refrained from imposing his winter “plan B”, which also includes the order to work from home if possible and vaccine passports.
The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) has been urged to consider expanding the booster program to those under 40 – with advice expected “imminently,” Mr Javid said.
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