Britain Introduces ‘Plan B’ Covid Measures to Tackle Omicron

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Britain Introduces ‘Plan B’ Covid Measures to Tackle Omicron

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Wednesday announced major new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, urging people to work from home and introducing a vaccine passport for some indoor venues, measures that his government had long resisted.

Mr. Johnson called the decision a “proportionate and responsible” response to the rise in Omicron cases in the country, which he said were “growing much faster than the previous Delta variant” in Britain.

“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission,” he said during an evening news conference.

The move will see the country adopt a contingency plan that was only intended to be used if new coronavirus case numbers rose to such an extent that the health system could be under threat.

Under the measures, the so-called Plan B, proof of vaccination will be needed to enter some indoor venues including nightclubs, mask mandates in public spaces will be extended, and . Similar “vaccine passport” systems are already either in operation or planned in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The timing of the announcement was awkward for Mr. Johnson, who has come under mounting political pressure in recent days over reports that his staff breached lockdown rules last Christmas by holding a party in Downing Street.

Earlier in the day, Allegra Stratton, resigned after a video emerged on Tuesday evening from last year of Ms. Stratton and other aides joking about whether the illicit party had been held.

When the government outlined its contingency measures earlier this year, it said that it hoped not to have to use them. But officials added that, if they had to institute the plan, it would only ask people to work from home for a limited period.

“The government recognizes this causes more disruption and has greater immediate costs to the economy and some businesses than the other Plan B interventions. A final decision would be made based on the data at the time,” a statement said at the time.

Even before the latest announcement, Mr. Johnson had already taken one of the contingency steps — making the wearing of masks mandatory on all public transportation in England as of last week. Britain has also tightened restrictions on travelers entering the country since the Omicron variant was first reported.

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