Boris Johnson expected to announce easing of Covid-19 Plan B restrictions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the easing of Covid Plan B restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the easing of Covid Plan B restrictions. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson is expected to announce an easing of England's Plan B coronavirus restrictions later today.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet will examine the latest Covid-19 data this morning [Wednesday, January 19] before making a statement in the Commons this afternoon.

England's Plan B measures - which include guidance to work from home, the use of the Covid pass and mandatory mask wearing in shops and on public transport - are set to expire on January 26.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on Tuesday that he was "cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week".

No final decisions have yet been made, although any attempt to extend the restrictions beyond the cut-off date would trigger a fresh confrontation with Tory MPs, something the Prime Minister would wish to avoid as his position has already been weakened due to the row over Downing Street parties.

Asked whether restrictions would be lifted during a visit to a hospital on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: "We've got to be careful about Covid. We've got to continue to remember that it's a threat."

A total of 19,450 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 17, Government figures show.

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This is down 2pc week-on-week, though the total has risen slightly in the most recent two days.

A further 94,432 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, while a further 438 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total by that measure to 152,513.

In Norfolk Covid rates appeared to be falling across all areas and experts said they were feeling "optimistic" about the virus situation.

In the seven days up to January 10 the average rate across the county dropped by 28pc to 1132.1 cases per 100,000.

The Plan B measures were introduced to combat the wave of cases driven by the Omicron variant, with the aim of buying time to offer more booster jabs.

Reports have suggested the Government may choose to lift the most economically significant measures - working from home and the Covid pass - while keeping the requirement to wear masks.

A Government spokesman said: "Decisions on the next steps remain finely balanced.

"Plan B was implemented in December to slow the rapid spread of the extremely transmissible Omicron variant, and get more jabs in arms.

"It's thanks to the phenomenal efforts of the NHS and many dedicated volunteers that we have now delivered over 36 million boosters to people across the UK.

"The Omicron variant continues to pose a significant threat and the pandemic is not over.

"Infections remain high but the latest data is encouraging, with cases beginning to fall. Vaccines remain our best line of defence and we urge people to come forward, to give themselves the best possible protection."