Most coronavirus restrictions, including mandatory face masks, have been lifted in England, after the UK government said its vaccine booster rollout had succeeded in reducing serious illnesses and hospitalizations from COVID-19
From Thursday, face coverings are no longer required by law anywhere in England, and a legal requirement for COVID passes for entry to nightclubs and other large venues has been removed.
Last week the government dropped its advice for people to work from home as well as guidance for face coverings in classrooms.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government’s deployment of vaccines, testing and development of antiviral treatments combine to form ‘some of the strongest defenses in Europe’, enabling a ‘cautious return’ to normality.
Officials said nearly 84% of people over the age of 12 in the UK had received their second dose of the vaccine, and of those eligible, 81% had received their booster.
Hospital admissions and the number of people in intensive care units have stabilized or fallen, and daily cases have fallen from a peak of more than 200,000 cases a day around New Year’s to less than 100 000 in recent days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that the spike in omicron infections “has now peaked nationwide”.
As the government moves away from legal measures, some shops and public transport operators say they will continue to ask people to put on their face masks. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said face coverings will still be required on the capital’s buses and Tubes.
The legal requirement for infected people to self-isolate for five full days remains, but Johnson said that measure will also end soon, to be replaced by advice and guidance for infected people to be on the safe side.
Health officials said they are planning a longer-term post-pandemic strategy that treats COVID-19 more like the flu.