Govt advises work from home, mandates vaccine passports

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PM says it was becoming increasingly clear that Omicron is “growing much faster than the previously dominant Delta variant and “we can’t yet assume Omicron is less severe than previous variants”, reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced the tightening of virus restrictions in England as Omicron variant cases surge, including guidance to work from home and mandatory Covid passports.

Johnson said at a briefing that the rate of Omicron cases was doubling every two to three days, risking a “big rise in hospitalisations”.

“We must be humble in the face of this virus”, he said, adding that it was “the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England”.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid

The UK has had more than 10 million confirmed cases and nearly 146,000 people have died from the virus, one of the highest tolls in Europe.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Wednesday there have been 568 confirmed cases of the newly discovered Omicron variant, but the true figure is “probably closer to 10,000”.

Johnson said that it was becoming increasingly clear that Omicron is “growing much faster than the previously dominant Delta variant and “we can’t yet assume Omicron is less severe than previous variants”.

“We just have to respond today in the way that we are,” he said, while insisting the new measures do not amount to a lockdown and people can continue with Christmas parties and children’s events such as Nativity plays as long as they “exercise due caution”.

Passports for stadiums

As part of a raft of new measures, the government is reintroducing advice to work at home in England.

“From Monday, you should work from home if you can — go to work if you must,” the Prime Minister said.

He added that the government in a week’s time will make it compulsory to show Covid vaccine passports in England for the first time, while the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales have already brought in similar measures.

The passes will be required “for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather”, Johnson said, specifying that this would mean indoor venues where more than 500 people gather unseated.

He also said that the passes will be required for any venue with more than 10,000 people present, such as sports stadiums. Four Premier League football matches will take place next Wednesday.

People will have to show certification that they have received two vaccine doses or taken a negative lateral flow test.

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The government is also making it a legal requirement to wear masks in “most public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas”, Johnson said. Mask-wearing is already legally required in England on public transport and in shops.

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of people taking vaccines and the booster doses now being offered. So far more almost 21 million people have received boosters in the UK.

“The single biggest thing that every one of us can do is to get our jabs and crucially to get that booster as soon as our turn arrives,” he said.

51,000 new coronavirus cases

Meanwhile, Britain registered 51,342 new Covid-19 infections bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,610,958, according to official figures released Wednesday.

The country also reported a further 161 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,987, with 7,317 Covid-19 patients still in the hospital.

The vast majority of these infections are likely to be the Delta variant, although Omicron cases are climbing also.

Earlier Wednesday, a further 131 cases of the new Omicron variant have been reported in Britain, taking the total to 568, British health authorities confirmed.

Scientists have called on the government to take more action and are urging people to be more cautious as Omicron cases continue to rise in the country.

More than 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 37 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

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