‘Omicron is in retreat’: Javid explains what the ‘next chapter’ will look like as Plan B is scrapped

Politics

The Omicron variant of coronavirus is “in retreat” and England is in the “next chapter” of its fight against the virus, the health secretary has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Sajid Javid said the lifting of Plan B COVID-19 measures is a moment “we can all be proud of”.

He said Omicron caused case numbers to rise to record levels, with over a third of the UK’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases being recorded in the last eight weeks.

Mr Javid said government action had “worked”, but he cautioned this is “not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line because we cannot eradicate this virus and its future variants”.

The health secretary added: “Instead we must learn to live with COVID in the same way we have to live with flu.

“And we will be setting out our long-term plan for living with COVID-19 this spring.”

The work from home guidance has been rescinded with immediate effect, while COVID passes and mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport will end next Thursday.

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Face masks will also no longer be required in classrooms from Thursday and communal areas from 27 January.

Restrictions on visits to care homes will be eased further, with more details due to be set out in the coming days.

Boris Johnson confirmed the scrapping of Plan B measures in a Commons statement earlier on Wednesday.

The prime minister told MPs that cases were falling and the Omicron wave had likely peaked nationally, meaning restrictions could now be eased.

Mr Johnson also said it was his intention to end isolation rules for people with COVID in the coming weeks.

The legal requirement will lapse when the regulations expire on 24 March, but the PM told MPs that date could be brought forward.

Over a third of the UK’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases happened over the last eight weeks.

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