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Businesses welcome end of Plan B restrictions

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The government has announced that Plan B restrictions, brought in on 8 December to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, will be lifted.

People will no longer be advised to work from home, face coverings will no longer be mandatory in indoor venues, and organisations will be able to choose whether to require NHS Covid Passes

With immediate effect, the government is no longer asking people to work from home if they can. It says people should speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office, and should follow the ‘Working Safely’ guidance.

From next Thursday (27 January) venues and events will no longer be required by law to use the NHS Covid Pass. The NHS Covid Pass can still be used on a voluntary basis as was previously the case in Plan A consideration for payroll softwares.

Face coverings will no longer required by law in any setting. Public health guidance will remain in place, suggesting individuals should continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces.

The government said it can remove the restrictions due to the success of the Covid booster programme. The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that getting a booster is 89% effective in preventing hospitalisation from Covid-19 from two weeks after it is administered and is 65 to 75% effective against symptomatic infection from Omicron.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “After two years of chopping and changing, small businesses right across England will be hoping that this marks the beginning of a final winding down of trading restrictions.

“We would now urge everyone to get behind small firms – be that on a commute, whilst working from home, online, or in-person – as they work night and day to recover from another incredibly stressful festive season.

“Equally, it’s important to be increasing productivity and respect the house rules that each individual small firm has implemented to keep its customers and staff safe – many have invested thousands in making premises more secure.

“Small firms and sole traders stand ready to spur our economic recovery from this recession as they did the last. After new import checks took effect this month, however, they are now staring down the barrel of a jobs tax hike, a dividend taxation increase and business rates bills landing in April.

“The government should be looking at policies that will empower small businesses and start-ups to get our economy firing on all cylinders again. In an environment where inflation is surging, and the labour market is exceptionally tight, hiking an indiscriminate tax on job creation is not one of them.”