Mask-wearing and working from home to go as England's Plan B rules set to end

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan speaks to a hotel owner and a WHO Covid chief about England's decision to ditch Plan B measures

Work from home guidance in England has been lifted and the other Covid-19 Plan B measures will be relaxed from next week, Boris Johnson has announced.

Self-isolation rules could also be scrapped with and replaced with guidance before the end of March, although a decision has not yet been made, Health Secretary Sajid Javid added.

Face coverings will no longer be mandatory in any setting from Thursday next week and large venues like nightclubs can stop requesting Covid passes from customers from the same date.

From tomorrow pupils and staff will also no longer have to wear face masks in communal spaces and classrooms in schools, said the PM, although that rule did not form part of Plan B.

Health Secretary Javid said the move had been made with the Omicron variant "in retreat", but he warned "it's not the end of the road".

Watch Sajid Javid's Covid update in full:

He said the government will be setting out its long-term plan for living with Covid-19 "this spring".

The minister said he hopes to "find a way to remove almost all of these restrictions and get life completely back to normal", but vaccines, testing and anti-viral treatments will remain important for a long time.

He accepted deaths and hospitalisations may still be high, but said many of the people in hospital with Covid are not there because they have it.

Around 40% of them are "indirect infections" - they are in hospital for another reason and also have coronavirus.

Mr Javid warned there "could be bumps in the road ahead" as he urged people to enjoy the relaxation of Plan be "with caution".

When restrictions lift, people will still be "encouraged" to continue wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces or when coming into contact with people you do not usually meet.

And they will remain compulsory on Tube and bus services in London as they are a ‘condition of carriage’ on TfL services.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said "there will soon come a time" when the government can remove the legal requirement for people infected with the virus to isolate all together - similar to the flu.

The legal requirement will expire on March 24 and the PM said he "very much" expects "not to renew them" and would like to bring the expiration date forward.

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

Last week, the health secretary announced that the isolation period for those who test positive for Covid will further be reduced to five days with two negative lateral flow tests.

Mr Johnson added that the public will no longer be asked to work from home from Wednesday, and people should ask their employers about when they can return to the workplace.

Restrictions on visits to care homes will also be eased, with the Department of Health updating guidance in the coming days.

The government will also make an announcement about easing Covid travel restrictions “in the next few days”, Mr Johnson added.

In response to a question from former prime minister Theresa May, asking when there will be no test requirements for the fully vaccinated to enter England, Mr Johnson replied: “We will certainly review testing arrangements for travel and the health secretary will be making a statement in the next few days on that."

Despite lifting restrictions, the PM warned the public: "We must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter when there are still over 16,000 people in hospital in England alone. The pandemic is not over.

“Make no mistake, Omicron is not a mild disease for everyone, especially if you’re not vaccinated.

“Just look at the numbers in other countries where vaccination rates are far lower.

“From our NHS data we know that around 90% of people in intensive care are not boosted.”

The announcement came after Scotland on Wednesday announced that Covid restrictions introduced on Boxing Day will be brought to an end as the country "turns the corner on the Omicron wave".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from January 24, nightclubs can open again, non-professional indoor sports can resume and indoor public events can eschew limits brought in at the end of last year.

England's Plan B restrictions were introduced in mid-December in a bid to combat the wave of cases driven by the Omicron variant, with the aim of buying time to offer more booster jabs.

The PM made the announcement in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, following a tense PMQs during which he was grilled over the partygate scandal engulfing his government.