oris Johnson is expected to announce an easing of England’s coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday as he battles to save his premiership.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet will examine the latest Covid data in the morning before making a statement in the Commons in the afternoon.
England’s Plan B measures – which include guidance to work from home, the use of the Covid pass and mandatory mask wearing in shops and on public transport – are set to expire on January 26.
The WHO has warned against ending Plan B restrictions “prematurely” as the coronavirus is “constantly evolving”. But businesses have called for a rapid “exit strategy” from restrictions, saying they have left restaurants and shops once again fighting for survival.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on Tuesday that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week”.
Asked whether restrictions would be lifted during a visit to a hospital on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “We’ve got to be careful about Covid. We’ve got to continue to remember that it’s a threat.”
No final decisions have yet been made, although any attempt to extend the restrictions beyond the cut-off date would trigger a fresh confrontation with Tory MPs, something the Prime Minister would wish to avoid as his position has already been weakened due to the row over Downing Street parties.
It comes amid reports of a plot from MPs to oust him and the handing of further letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee.
Reports suggest that as many as 20 of the fresh intake of Red-Wall MPs from the 2019 election were considering handing in letters to the 1922 Committee in a move that could signal the beginning of the end of Mr Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson was said to be trying to shore up his support in the parliamentary party last night after it emerged a group had reportedly met in the office of Alicia Kearns to discuss his future as prime minister. The meeting was dubbed the “pork pie putsch” as Kearns’ constituency contains Melton Mowbray.
54 letters are needed to spark a leadership race with current Chancellor Rishi Sunak the bookies favourite ahead of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Most MPs and senior Conservative figures are believed to be waiting for Sue Gray’s report before deciding whether to oust the PM.
The PM’s former right-hand-man Dominic Cummings revealed he would be providing evidence to the inquiry as he mocked the PM’s “catastrophic” defence that “nobody told him” he was attending a party on May 20. Mr Johnson has denied prior knowledge of the “bring your own booze” event.
The Plan B measures were introduced to combat the wave of cases driven by the Omicron variant, with the aim of buying time to offer more booster jabs.
Reports have suggested the Government may choose to lift the most economically significant measures – working from home and the Covid pass – while keeping the requirement to wear masks.
A Government spokesman said: “Decisions on the next steps remain finely balanced.
“Plan B was implemented in December to slow the rapid spread of the extremely transmissible Omicron variant, and get more jabs in arms.
“It’s thanks to the phenomenal efforts of the NHS and many dedicated volunteers that we have now delivered over 36 million boosters to people across the UK.
“The Omicron variant continues to pose a significant threat and the pandemic is not over.
“Infections remain high but the latest data is encouraging, with cases beginning to fall. Vaccines remain our best line of defence and we urge people to come forward, to give themselves the best possible protection.”