Boris Johnson has announced the government will implement its “plan B” for England with the introduction of Covid passports for large venues and guidance for the public to work from home from Monday.
The prime minister’s decision to ramp up restrictions — after a meeting of the government’s Covid operations committee — comes in response to concerns over the transmissibility of the omicron variant and spread around the world.
He also announced the mandatory wearing of face masks will be extended to cinemas and theatres after they were reintroduced a fortnight ago for public transport and shops, but exemptions will be included for eating, drinking and exercising.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson said: “We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home.
“Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can. Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.
“I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission.”
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) stressed the measure had played an “important role in preventing sustained epidemic growth” in the months before Covid restrictions were released.
In a move that will dismay some Conservative MPs, Mr Johnson also told the public that the NHS Covid pass will be made mandatory in England in a week’s time for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.
On the spread of the virus, the prime minister added: “It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world.”
While 568 cases had been confirmed in the UK “the true number is certain to be much higher”.
“Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days.”