‘Work from home from Monday’ as Omicron worries accelerate

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked everyone to work from home where possible once more as concern about the acceleration of the Omicron variant increases.

The Government has brought in “Plan B” to try and address the rising case numbers, with Johnson saying it was now the “proportionate and responsible thing” to do.

Johnson, speaking at a teatime press conference, said there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron in the UK could currently be between two and three days.

“We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home,” said Johnson. “Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with employees. From Monday, you should work from home if you can.”

Two measures will come into force in a week’s time.

It will be a legal requirement to wear a facemask to theatres and cinemas and the NHS pass – which currently requires two vaccines – will be made mandatory for nightclubs and other venues.

From this Friday the legal requirement to wear face masks will be extended to most public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas, but with exemptions, such as “when eating, drinking, exercising, singing”.

The Government will make the NHS Covid pass mandatory for nightclubs and large venues, which includes unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, seated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

Johnson said: “We will give businesses a week’s notice so this will come into force in a week’s time, helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends the confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others.”

The Prime Minister added the Government “will be guided by the hard medical data around four key criteria” – the efficacy of vaccines and boosters, the severity of Omicron, the speed of its spread, and the rate of hospitalisations.

The Government is under huge pressure because of parties held in Downing Street which today led to the resignation of Allegra Stratton, who was shown in a leaked video laughing about one event last December.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who was alongside the Prime Minister, said: “The measures work when people follow them and that’s been shown time and time again.

“It’s incredibly important everyone follows it. That’s everybody. It’s was incredibly important throughout, it’s going to be incredibly important going forward – and it only works if we all do it.”

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “It felt like the days of
a start-stop approach to the economy had passed, so this announcement will come as a bitter blow to many businesses that had been looking ahead to the festive period with a bounce.

“Remember, Tier 3 restrictions last year meant Christmas was cancelled for many businesses in our region, particularly those in hospitality, retail and leisure.

“Given the importance of this season to those sectors, these coming weeks are critical to their future prospects, and any restrictions that act as a barrier to business continuity or capacity will be massively detrimental.”