New Plan B restrictions on working from home and NHS Covid Passes come into force this week as the Omicron variant spreads
FROM today (Monday) people in England are being asked to return to working from home if they can.
With less than a fortnight to go until Christmas, tougher measures are being brought in to try to give scientists time to gather a greater understanding of the new Omicron strain, how severe it may be and whether vaccines work against it.
From where to wear a face mask to how to download a Covid Pass – here's everything you need to know as England moves to Plan B restrictions this week:
Working from home
There will be a return to the kitchen or dining room table for many staff as ministers request that workers who can, leave their work places and return home as of today.
The measure, expected to last into the new year, was announced last week after early analysis showed Covid cases of the new variant may be doubling at a rate of as little as two-and-a-half to three days.
In a press conference on Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who was also forced to field difficult questions about Christmas parties at Downing Street last year – made the request for people to return to home working as he attempts to buy the NHS more time to deliver boosters and scientists time to gather and study Omicron data.
Christmas parties, however, the government says, can continue with party goers advised to take a lateral flow test before joining any crowded areas.
Face masks have now become compulsory in most public indoor venues.
As one of the first new Plan B rules, which came into force on Friday, the list of places requiring a face covering has increased and now includes venues such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship.
School pupils in Year 7 and above moving in communal areas and shops and supermarkets had already been told to bring back the wearing of face masks at the end of November as coronavirus cases continued rising and the first signs of a new strain in South Africa were emerging.
There are exemptions in venues where it is not practical to wear one, such as when eating, drinking or exercising.
From this Wednesday, 15th December, the NHS Covid Pass is to become mandatory in specific settings.
The digital pass, which can show whether someone has had a recent negative lateral flow test or is fully vaccinated, will be required to enter entertainment venues such as nightclubs or where large crowds will gather.
This will include unseated indoor events with 500 people or more, unseated outdoor events for 4,000 or more or any event with 10,000 people.
For now, 'fully vaccinated' is defined as two doses but the government has pledged to keep this figure under review as more and more adults receive an additional booster or third dose.
Boris Johnson said: “The NHS Covid pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out.
“And having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient."
Some theatres, large sporting events and music concerts have already been requesting Covid passes in recent months.
Downloading a Covid Pass
You can get an NHS Covid Pass digitally through the NHS App or via the online NHS Covid Pass service providing that you are registered with a GP in England.
It is worth noting that the app is not the same as the one used by Test and Trace services.
You will need an NHS login to use all of these services, which can either be set up when you download your NHS App – if you don't have a login already – or created by clicking here.
The work to verify your identity, in order to access your medical records including your vaccination status, can take up to 24 hours to be rubber stamped, so it is advisable to not leave accessing your pass until the day or evening that you require it before deciding to set it up.
As well as having a digital version of your Covid Pass, once logged in, you also have the option to download your pass and print it should you not have the technology to show it at the door of a venue using a mobile phone or other digital device.
If you cannot apply digitally or use any of the online services then you can ask the NHS for a letter to be sent to you in the post, which will show your coronavirus vaccine status. Learn more about that here.
For people showing that they are fully vaccinated – the barcode generated on the digital pass will be valid for 30 days from when you have accessed it or downloaded it as a pdf – while a Covid Pass using a negative coronavirus test will last for 48 hours.
To renew the dates on passes if your 30 days has expired you can simply log back into the NHS app and view your digital pass again and this will extend the time frame or alternatively download it again onto your device if you wish to print it out for a more up-to-date version.