Plan B measures were initially introduced on 8 December 2021 to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. These meant people were required by law to wear face coverings indoors in public venues, apart from hospitality, recommended to work from home where possible and required Covid passes to access large events and nightclubs. These measures have been removed.
Despite the decision to lift restrictions, however, health secretary Sajid Javid warned: “As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away so, if you haven’t already, please come forward for your first, second or booster jab.”
Under plan A, local directors of public health are still able to recommend face coverings in communal areas only in education settings within their area. This is a temporary measure, the government said.
Infection prevention control guidance continues to require face coverings be worn in health and care settings, including primary care and pharmacies.
And it is still a legal requirement for those with Covid to self-isolate for 10 days with the option to end self-isolation after five full days following two negative lateral flow tests.
The move to plan A comes in the wake of warnings from scientists that case rates in England now appear to be plateauing.
Although rates are falling among adults, the prevalence of the virus in children is growing, according to the UK’s React survey, run by Imperial College London.
Two-thirds of recent cases were also among those who said they had previously caught Covid, although scientists cautioned that it was hard to determine whether these were true reinfections, or a result of people still testing positive from lingering infections.
The study, which assessed 100,607 swabs between 5 and 20 January, suggests that infections peaked around the beginning of the month, when 1 in 23 people had the virus, before declining and then flattening off.
A total of 102,292 new infections were reported on Wednesday, while a further 346 deaths were recorded.
Some 64.4 per cent of those aged 12 and over have received three doses. Nearly 91 per cent of the population has been vaccinated with a least one jab.