BORIS Johnson is poised to “substantially reduce” Covid restrictions next week in a sign Britain is beating the Omicron wave.
The PM wants to bin many curbs on our daily lives with case numbers and hospitalisations both falling across the country.
No 10 is set to review the need for Plan B restrictions this week, with the legislation underpinning them expiring next Wednesday.
The current measures cover three areas – working from home guidance, vaccine passports for mass events, and mask wearing in public spaces.
Today the PM warned that the UK needs to remain wary of the virus and urged people to carry on coming forward for their boosters.
Asked about ending Plan B restrictions, Boris pointed out that some 19,000 Brits are still in hospital with Covid.
Speaking during a visit to a hospital in Finchley, North London today, he said: “We’ve got to be careful about Covid.
“We’ve got to continue to remember that it’s a threat.”
Earlier the health secretary Sajid Javid was more upbeat and said he was “cautiously optimistic” many curbs will be ditched next week.
He told the Commons: “I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce measures next week.”
🔵 Follow our Covid live blog for all the latest updates
A string of other senior Cabinet ministers have also strongly hinted that they expect Plan B to be axed soon on January 26.
Here are three options the PM could take to increase Brits’ freedoms next week:
The most likely option the PM will take is to scrap most of the Plan B measures but keep some mask wearing rules in place.
Cabinet ministers are heavily pushing him to end the work from home guidance which is clobbering the economy and city centre industries.
Meanwhile, any attempt to renew vaccine passports for mass events like football games would spark another huge rebellion from Tory MPs.
As a result the PM is expected to ditch both of those restrictions, which place the most noticeable burden on people’s every day lives.
But he looks set to largely keep the requirement for Brits to wear masks on public transport and in shops in place until Omicron cases reduce further.
Rules on face coverings in schools are set to be relaxed so they’re only needed in communal areas like corridors and not classrooms.
Alternatively, the PM could decide to go the whole hog and end the full suite Plan B curbs including mask wearing.
This would please Tory backbenchers who want to see Britain transition to living with the virus, but may prompt a backlash from scientists.
There have even been reports that Boris may be readying to confirm that all Covid restrictions will legally lapse in March.
That would mean it would no longer be the law that people with the virus or unvaccinated close contacts have to self-isolate.
Currently there are fines of up to £10,000 for non-compliance, but that could be replaced with guidance asking people self-quarantine.
The legislation underpinning all Covid measures expires in March, meaning the PM would need to go to a Commons vote to renew the self-isolation rules.
STICK TO THE PLAN
If the numbers suddenly start to spiral in the wrong direction the PM could slam the brakes by keeping Plan B in place for longer.
Ministers have repeatedly warned that the path of the virus is hard to predict and they’ll do whatever is necessary to protect public health.
However, this is seen as the least likely option with once gloomy scientists now saying it looks like Britain has weathered the Omicron storm.
Top profs are even predicting that the UK could become the first major country to successful exit from the pandemic state.
Boris has previously warned that ending all restrictions will be dependent on as many people as possible coming forward for their boosters.
But keeping restrictions in place beyond the end of this month would likely set up another showdown with restless Conservative backbenchers.