The UK government on Friday began enforcing a mask mandate in most indoor settings in England including cinemas, theatres, and churches in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The measure is part of the “Plan B” the government had prepared to respond to a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
As part of the plan announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Dec. 8, people will also be asked to work from home if they can from Monday, and vaccine passports will be introduced for large-scale events and nightclubs from Wednesday.
You must wear face coverings in most public indoor settings, other than hospitality venues.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) December 10, 2021
According to government guidance updated on Friday, face coverings are required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, including taxis.
But masks are not required in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed (such as pubs and restaurants), or during exercise (such as gyms), including dancing (such as nightclubs).
Johnson said at a Downing Street press briefing on Dec. 8 that enforcing Plan B is “the best way to ensure we all have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.”
In a simultaneous announcement in the House of Commons, Health Secretary Sajid Javid faced a barrage of criticism from backbench Conservative MPs, some of whom suspect the new restrictions were introduced as an attempt to distract from the prime minister’s troubles over an alleged staff Christmas party in Downing Street during last December’s lockdown.
Earlier on Dec. 8, Johnson ordered Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations, and senior aide Allegra Stratton resigned after a video emerged showing her joking about the alleged gathering.
Former chief whip Mark Harper asked Javid: “Why should people at home listening to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State do things that people working in Number 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?”
Javid said the new restrictions were being imposed “with a heavy heart” but insisted they were necessary.
The new regulations will be put to a debate and vote in the House of Commons next week. With the support from the main opposition Labour Party, the measures are certain to be approved, despite the prospect of a large Conservative revolt.
The Plan B measures will be reviewed on Jan. 5, before their expiry date of Jan. 26.
PA contributed to this report.