Boris Johnson announces end of Plan B Covid curbs in England

Watch the prime minister's update on Plan B measures in full

Boris Johnson has announced the end of England’s Plan B Covid restrictions.

Current measures in England, including guidance to work from home and the widespread use of face coverings, were brought in to halt the spread of Omicron last month, and will be reviewed on January 26.

The prime minister and his Cabinet examined the latest Covid-19 data on Wednesday morning before he made the announcement in the Commons.

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What is the current Covid situation?

A total of 19,450 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 17, down 2% week-on-week, though the total has risen slightly in the most recent two days.

During the peak of the second wave, on January 18, 2021, there were 39,254 Covid patients in hospital.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on Tuesday that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week”.

Watch Boris Johnson's interview on Downing Street parties in full

No final decisions have yet been made on what's being eased, although any attempt to extend the restrictions beyond the cut-off date would trigger a fresh confrontation with Tory MPs.

With MPs plotting his demise, a parliamentary revolt is the last thing the PM would want as his position has already been severely weakened over Downing Street party allegations.

Mr Johnson has insisted that "nobody told me" a party held in Downing Street in May 2020 at the height of a coronavirus lockdown was "against the rules", as he apologised for "misjudgements" made.

The prime minister has told MPs that he was only in the Downing Street garden for 25 minutes in May 2020 to thank assembled staff before resuming work in his office.

There are now at least 10 allegations of Covid-rule-breaking carried out by members of the Tory party during the pandemic, with the PM accused of allowing a culture of rule-breaching to go unchecked.

Asked whether curbs would be lifted during a visit to a hospital on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “We’ve got to be careful about Covid. We’ve got to continue to remember that it’s a threat.” The Plan B measures were introduced to combat the wave of cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant, with the aim of buying time to offer more booster jabs. Reports have suggested the government may choose to lift the most economically significant measures – working from home and the Covid pass – while keeping the requirement to wear masks. A government spokesman said that decisions on the next steps "remain finely balanced", adding that although the latest data is encouraging, the "pandemic is not over".