Face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement in indoor spaces from Thursday as England reverts to Plan A Coronavirus lockdown measures, amid a continued fall in the Omicron variant infection rate.
Under plans announced by the UK government earlier this month, mandatory COVID-19 vaccination certification will also end but venues may choose to use the NHS COVID Pass showing vaccination status or a negative COVID test voluntarily.
The work from home where possible guidance had been withdrawn last week as part of a staggered rollback of all Plan B measures, which came into force on December 8, 2021.
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, said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
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, he said.
The Plan B measures were brought in with a Get Boosted Now appeal and the government said over 37 million top-up third vaccine doses have been administered since to reduce the risk of severe infection and hospitalisations from COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that hospital admissions have now stabilised and the number of people in intensive care units with COVID 'continues to fall'.
Under Plan A, it is 'suggested' that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces where they might come into contact with people they do not normally meet. Meanwhile, it is still a legal requirement for those with COVID-19 to self-isolate for 10 days with the option to end self-isolation after five full days following two negative lateral flow device (LFD) tests on days five and six.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that though infections continue to fall, Omicron remains prevalent across the country especially in the young and the elderly. Remaining cautious and taking precautionary measures is vital alongside vaccines and testing to control the spread of COVID-19, it said.
On Thursday, the UK recorded another 96,871 COVID infections a figure that has remained high due to widespread Coronavirus testing.
The DHSC said that as the virus becomes endemic, the government will set out a long-term strategy for living with COVID-19 and replacing legal requirements on self-isolation with advice and guidance urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.
The devolved regions of the United Kingdom broadly follow similar guidelines, though face coverings remain compulsory in most other parts of the UK. In England, transport networks and some supermarkets have already urged customers to continue wearing face masks as a precautionary measure.