COVID rules have recently changed in response to concern about the newly identified variant – Omicron.

What are the new COVID-19 measures?

  • All contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be contacted by their local track and trace system and required to isolate for 10 days, regardelss of their vaccination status or age
  • Anyone travelling to the UK has to take a Lateral Flow or PCR test no more than 48 hours before departure, and another PCR test withing 48 hours of arriving back into the UK – and they must self-isolate until they have a negative result
  • Face coverings are compulsary again in shops and on public transport in England
  • Pupils at secondary schools in England are being “strongly advised” to wear face coverings in communal areas, as well as visitors to all childcare settings and schools
  • Secondary school pupils in Wales are being urged to wear face masks in classrooms and communal areas, with staff anf students in colleges and universities also wearing face coverings inside

What’s happening with boosters?

The booster campaign for COVID vaccinations is being ramped up:

  • Booster jabs to ne offered to all over-18s
  • The gap between the second dose of the vaccine and booster will be reduced to three months from six
  • People with weakened immune system will also be offered a fourth dose of the vaccine, as a booster, no sooner than three months after their third injection
  • Children aged 12 to 15 will also be invited for a second does of the vaccine, three months after thier first injection

People with weakened immune systems will be contacted first, followed by older age groups and then younger ones.

You are asked to not try to book your booster until the NHS contacts you to say it is your turn – although every eligible person in England and Scotland should be able to book their booster jab by the end of January – although you may not actually receive your jab until a later date.

In England, booster jabs will be rolled out using extra hospital hubs and community pharmacy sites.

Wales will also increase the capacity of their drive-through centres and clinics, and will work with GPs and others, including firefighters and soldiers, to deliver booster vaccines.

Northern Ireland has also introduced extra vaccination clinics.

Scotland has said it will announce its approach very soon.

Why are the changes to the lockdown rules being made?

A new variant of COVID, the Omicron variant, has been identified and there is a worry that it could be more infectious than previous variants and also less responsive to vaccines.

Precautions have therefore been put into place until scientists can properly assess what the impact of the new variant could be.

What are the chances of there being another lockdown?

The UK government has repeatedly said that they have no plans for another lockdown in England.

However, back in September 2021, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a list of measures that would come into place if the NHS came under “unsustainable pressure”. These measures included the use of face coverings (which has now been implemented) and other measures which have not been implemented including mandatory COVID passports and asking people to work from home again.

What other COVID restrictions are currently in place in England?

  • Anyone testing positive with COVID have to self-isolate
  • A 1 m plus social distancing measure remains in places such as hospitals and passport control
  • People are advised to test themselves for COVID beofre spending time with those at risk, or going to crowded places

What is the current situation in Wales?

Current COVID measures in Wales include:

  • Face coverings compulsary in hospitals and shops, as well as on public transport
  • NHS COVID pass needed for entry into cinemas, concert halls, nightclubs and theatres, as well as many indoor and outdoor events
  • Working from home, wherever possible

What is the current situation in Scotland

  • All school staff and secondary school pupils to wear face coverings inside
  • All over 18s are required to prove their vaccine status at nightclubs and other venues
  • Face masks are compulsary on public transport and inside places like shops
  • Indoor hospitality venues must collect customer contact details
  • Social distancing rules remain in healthcare settings, where the 2 metre / 6 foot rules still applies
  • Work from home, where possible

What is the current situation in Northern Ireland?

  • A limit of 30 people from different households mixing indoors in domestic settings
  • Face coverings still compulsary in indoor seated entertainment venues, public transport, shops, visitor attractions and some other settings
  • Secondary school pupils must wear a face covering on schools transport and when they are inside school buildings. Staff are encourage to wear masks in school areas where they cannot socially distance

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