Boris Johnson is anticipated to instruct tens of millions to return to workplaces throughout England as he tries to placate livid MPs with a assessment of Covid restrictions that might finish all guidelines launched to fight Omicron.
The cupboard will meet on Wednesday morning to look at Covid knowledge and assessment plan B restrictions imposed in December amid the fast unfold of the variant, with Johnson set to replace the Commons later within the day.
Whereas an official assertion mentioned selections remained “finely balanced”, ministers are widely expected to approve the end of current advice for individuals to make money working from home the place attainable and using vaccine certificates to enter venues like nightclubs and sports activities stadiums. This might occur from Monday 26 January, the pre-set assessment level for the plan B measures.
It is usually attainable, if thought-about much less doubtless, that the cupboard might drop the ultimate plan B restriction which mandates masks on public transport and in retailers. This transfer particularly would please many Conservative backbenchers, particularly these within the influential Covid Restoration Group.
In defending Johnson from calls to stop over claims he knowingly took half in lockdown-breaching events, supporters have repeatedly talked up his resolution to keep away from stricter restrictions as Omicron unfold, saying hospitalisation figures have since proved him proper.
However whereas whole confirmed instances have began to drop barely in latest days, albeit remaining close to 100,000 a day nationally, the wave of infections has hit areas at totally different instances, with the north of England nearer the height than locations corresponding to London.
The director of public well being for one metropolis within the north of England mentioned they’d be extraordinarily cautious on the thought of plan B restrictions being eliminated so quickly.
“It does really feel too early, actually within the north,” they mentioned. “We’re nonetheless seeing actual stress in hospitals, and other people being off work. The thought of dropping every little thing subsequent week simply doesn’t appear wise. If we inform individuals they’ll all return to the workplace, we’ll simply get much more individuals off sick.
“I personally thought we shouldn’t have misplaced masks once we did final 12 months – it was too quickly. Each time you’re taking one thing away and attempt to reintroduce it, public help is misplaced. I simply want there was a bit extra time, so we will really feel barely extra snug. It’s not simply Covid, however all of the pressures on the NHS.”
One other fear, they mentioned, was the potential for a wave of latest infections affecting susceptible individuals who had acquired a Covid booster a while in the past, with the safety starting to wane.
Whereas ministers have talked up the concept of an finish of restrictions which means Covid is transferring from pandemic to endemic standing, like seasonal flu, the general public well being director mentioned this was untimely.
“We’re simply not there but,” they mentioned. “You don’t see instances rising in the best way we now have in the previous couple of weeks if one thing is endemic. It’s received to be a way more secure place.”
Extra broadly, ministers are looking at phasing out all remaining Covid guidelines in England, together with the authorized requirement to self-isolate after a constructive Covid check, backed up by fines.
This and different provisions, such because the requirement to offer particulars to NHS Take a look at and hint, are on account of expire in March and could possibly be allowed to lapse.
A No 10 assertion setting out the plan for Wednesday’s resolution famous that case numbers are nonetheless excessive, with 17,000 Covid sufferers in hospital in England.
A authorities spokesperson mentioned: “Choices on the subsequent steps stay finely balanced. Plan B was carried out in December to sluggish the fast unfold of the extraordinarily transmissible Omicron variant, and get extra jabs in arms.
“The Omicron variant continues to pose a big menace and the pandemic isn’t over. Infections stay excessive however the newest knowledge is encouraging, with instances starting to fall.”