UK News England moves out of Plan B as COVID restrictions ease
Covid-19 infection levels fall in three of four UK nations
The figures are the most reliable snapshot of how prevalent coronavirus is across the country.England, Scotland and Wales all recorded a drop last week in the number of people in private households estimated to have Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
England is set to move from the government’s COVID Plan B to Plan A on Thursday.
The rules introduced over the Christmas period due to the rise of the Omicron variant will lapse, with mask wearing rules eased.
The other nations in the UK are also moving to less stringent restrictions, but are not opening up to the level of England.
The advice for pupils and staff to wear masks in classrooms was removed on 20 January, and work from home advice eased on 19 January.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The tireless efforts of NHS and care staff, and the army of volunteers, as well as the phenomenal response of the British public means over 37 million people have been boosted. I want to thank everyone who has come forward to get boosted now.
Theatre groups say end of Plan B is ‘confidence boost’ for sector
Venues will no longer require a Covid pass for entry. A statement from our Chief Executive, Julian Bird on the relaxing of Plan B measures. pic.twitter.com/PU3DNb5ZCY— SOLT News (@SOLTnews) January 19, 2022Outgoing chief executive of the sister bodies, Julian Bird, said: “The relaxing of Plan B measures, particularly the end of mandatory home working, should provide a confidence boost to the theatre industry after several weeks of turbulence and uncertainty.
"Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.
"As we learn to live with COVID we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away so if you haven't already - please come forward for your first, second or booster jab."
However, some companies and services are continuing to ask people to wear masks.
Face coverings will still be mandatory on Transport for London services.
And supermarkets Saisbury's and Waitrose will be asking people to continue wearing masks in their shops.
When did Covid start? What we know about how the coronavirus pandemic started and when it reached the UK
Two years ago Covid-19 had yet to reach the UK, and few could have imagined just how big an impact it would go on to have on our lives . Multiple strains and three national lockdowns later the pandemic is still far from over. More than 5.5 million people have now died from Covid-19 worldwide, and the daily death toll is currently rising as the Omicron variant continues to spread. In the UK more than 152,000 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. But those figures would be far higher if it were not for the success of the vaccines.
On Tuesday this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that, from 4am on 11 February, there will be no requirement for vaccinated passengers arriving in England to do post-arrival lateral flow tests.
Those who are not fully vaccinated - two jabs, or a single Janssen jab - will need to test before they depart for England, and take a post-arrival PCR test, and complete a passenger locator form.
But they will no longer need to isolate, or complete a day eight test.
Looking further ahead, the requirement for people to self isolate after testing positive foris set to lapse on 24 March - and Boris Johnson has indicated he does not expect to renew them.
Elsewhere in the UK, Scotland announced the reopening of nightclubs and scrapping social distancing this week.
Work from home is still being advised, and face coverings remain on public transport and in indoor public places.
England skittled for 103 as West Indies go 1-0 up
Jason Holder took 4-7 as England were bowled out for 103 on their way to a comprehensive nine-wicket defeat to West Indies in the first T20I.England quickly found themselves in trouble after being asked to bat as Holder and Sheldon Cottrell did damage with the new ball, reducing the visitors to 10-3 which swiftly became 29-5 and then 49-7.
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Crowds are set to return to Welsh sporting events in the next fortnight, and nightclubs will also reopen.
Nightclubs reopened this week in Northern Ireland, although a domestic COVID certificate was still required for entry.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: "The recent decline in community case rates and individuals requiring hospitalisation is encouraging and it's thanks to the public, who have taken up vaccination and followed the Plan B measures closely, that we've got to this point.
"However we should not be complacent. The pandemic is not over yet and we will need to remain cautious to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
"I encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they can, to continue testing regularly with lateral flow tests - particularly before periods of high risk and before seeing anyone who is vulnerable - and to take a PCR test if they have symptoms."
Trade union and professional body representatives for the healthcare sector have criticised the easing of restrictions.
British Medical Association chair Chaand Nagpaul said the decision to move to Plan A was "not guided by the data".
And Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "We will have greater freedoms, but the cost - at least in the short term - will be that more people are likely to get sick with COVID and that the health service will continue to have to deal with the extra burdens that this creates."
COVID-19: Denmark to the lifting of restrictions Despite recording cases .
If the measure is adopted, the Nordic country would become the first in the European Union to skip the pace despite the wave of Omicron variant © Francis Joseph Dean / Dean Picture People in front of a screening center in Copenhagen in Denmark.