Covid: All the rule changes from today as face masks become mandatory

A raft of new measures have come into force to try and prevent the spread of the new strain (Picture: Zuma Press)

Boris Johnson has announced a raft of new measures to combat the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport, while all travellers returning to the UK must take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result comes back.

All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases must also self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their age or vaccination status.

The booster vaccine programme has also been massively expanded, with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) now advising that all adults aged 18 and over should be offered a top-up dose.

But the Prime Minister has been accused of not going far enough, with Labour and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales calling for even tougher measures.

Despite the emergence of the worrying new strain, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said at the weekend that it was ‘nowhere near’ time for the reintroduction of social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance.

So, what new rules have come into force, and how will you be affected? Here is everything you need to know.

What are the new rules on face masks?

Face masks will be compulsory on trains, buses and tubes, as well as in settings such as shops, banks and post offices from 4am on Tuesday.

Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport (Picture: Ben Cawthra/LNP)

It is also recommended that staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 and above wear masks in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities such as corridors, canteens and halls.

Though the reintroduction of masks in England in shops will bring the nation back closer into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, they are not being required in pubs and restaurants.

Full list of settings where face masks are now mandatory:

  • shops and supermarkets (places that offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • auction houses
  • post offices, banks, building societies, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and letting agents
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (barbers, hair salons, tattoo and piercing studios, nail salons, massage centres)
  • pharmacies
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • retail galleries
  • retail travel agents
  • takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises
  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses), taxis and private hire vehicles
  • any car, van or HGV, during a professional driving lesson, a formal driving test, or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction

How will the new rules be enforced?

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has said officers will enforce the regulations ‘where it is necessary to do so’.

Police presence will be increased ‘where possible in high-risk and crowded areas, such as towns and shopping centres, and near transport hubs’, they added.

Police can now issue fines of £200 – doubling with every further offence to reach a maximum of £6,400 – if they are not worn (Picture: Getty)

If they encounter someone without a face covering, ‘they will engage with them, explain the risks and encourage them to comply with the new rules’.

Police can now issue fines of £200 – doubling with every further offence to reach a maximum of £6,400 – if they are not worn.

What have the supermarkets said about it?

Shop workers are said to be ‘extremely concerned’ about any abuse they might experience while trying to police the use of face masks in store.

The UK’s supermarkets have said they are waiting for advice from the Government and will be keeping their staff and customers informed.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: ‘We are reviewing the latest Government guidance and will keep customers and colleagues updated.’

Morrisons said: ‘We will be following all updated Government guidelines to keep our customers and colleagues safe.’

Aldi also confirmed that face masks for all – except those who are medically exempt – will be compulsory from Tuesday.

What are the new travel rules?

From 4am on Tuesday, fully-vaccinated people entering the UK will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test taken on the second day after they arrive.

The tests must be bought from the private sector, typically costing around £55.

Previously, fully-vaccinated travellers were only required to take a cheaper lateral flow test, and did not need to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.

All travellers returning to the UK must take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result comes back (Picture: AP)

People who are unvaccinated will continue to need one pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests and must quarantine for 10 days.

Ten African countries – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have been added to the UK’s red list since Friday.

Arrivals from those locations must stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

Those who breach the new rules can be fined between £500 and £10,000.

When can I get my booster vaccine?

Millions more people are now eligible for a booster jab after the programme was expanded in a huge push to beat the Omicron variant.

Mr Javid announced yesterday that all over-18s can book in for their third dose, with the six-month gap after a second jab being halved to three.

Those aged 12 to 15 will also be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also said that severely immunosuppressed people should be offered a fourth jab no sooner than three months after completing their primary course of three doses.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons he accepted the JCVI advice in full, adding: ‘With this new variant on the offensive these measures will protect more people more quickly and make us better protected as a nation.’

Will schools close early for Christmas?

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said that closing schools is the last possible option in the fight against the new variant.

Mr Zahawi said he does not support the return of ‘bubbles’ in schools – where whole classes or year groups could be sent home after a positive Covid-19 test – as it reduces attendance ‘significantly’.

His comments came as targeted testing of pupils began in two schools in Essex and Nottinghamshire after cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the local areas.

Face masks are being recommended in communal areas of England’s secondary schools and colleges (Picture: AFP via Getty)

Face masks are being recommended in communal areas of England’s secondary schools and colleges, but teaching unions are calling for tougher measures to be implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Education Secretary told ITV’s This Morning programme: ‘The best place for children to be is in a classroom, learning.’

Asked if closing schools was the ‘last possible option’, he said: ‘Absolutely.’

The Health Secretary has also said: ‘There are no plans that I am aware of that would require us to close schools early, I think that would be very detrimental to the education of children.’

What about nativity plays?

The Government is not asking schools to cancel nativity plays in the coming weeks despite the emergence of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, a minister has said.

Health minister Edward Argar said festive plays in school are ‘important to young people who’ve had a rough time’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His comments came as a poll suggested that more than one in four (27%) primary school teachers have said their school is only planning to run nativity shows online this year.

A poll by Teacher Tapp, of 1,711 primary school teachers in England, shared with the PA news agency, found that 10% said their primary school is not planning to host any nativity play this year.

And what about Christmas parties?

There are no legal restrictions on holding Christmas parties, while there are no requirements to produce vaccine passports and the new rules on face masks do not extend to hospitality venues.

Speaking at the weekend, before six more cases of the Omicron variant were found in Scotland and two more were detected in England, Mr Javid said families should plan for a great Christmas ‘as normal’.

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He said it ‘would be irresponsible to make guarantees’ during the ever-changing pandemic, but he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: ‘I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.’

Meanwhile, Mr Argar has said the Government will let people in England ‘use their judgments’ about whether to attend festive gatherings this year.

Voluntary Government guidance advises people should wear masks in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, and take a lateral flow test before socialising with other people.

Could the rules be tightened further?

Although the Government has so far resisted calls to implement its ‘Plan B’ for dealing with coronavirus over the winter months, additional measures such as vaccine passports for nightclubs and stadiums do remain in reserve.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Wales’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, have called for urgent talks with the Prime Minister over the new variant, and demanded that a tougher four-nations approach is adopted.

Downing Street rejected calls from Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford for the self-isolation period for travellers to be extended until the result of a test on day eight after arriving in the UK.

Extending the requirements would have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the travel industry, No 10 said.

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Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all implemented travel rules for non-red list arrivals.

England is also the only UK nation where working from home is not encouraged.

Ms Sturgeon reminded people on Monday to ‘work from home if possible’.

The advice is the same in Northern Ireland and working from home is encouraged under current guidance in Wales.

On Monday the PM’s spokesman said it was up to employers to decide on the ‘right balance’ for them, when it came to whether staff worked from home or the office.

The current measures will last three weeks and will be reviewed before they expire on December 20.

That means they could be scrapped, extended or strengthened in time for Christmas.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

https://metro.co.uk/2021/11/30/covid-all-the-rule-changes-from-today-as-face-masks-become-mandatory-15686395/?ITO=metro-trending Covid: All the rule changes from today as face masks become mandatory

Huynh Nguyen

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