Prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the Government’s ‘Plan B’ is to be introduced in England in an attempt to slow down the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Addressing the nation from Downing Street, 8 December, prime minister Johnson confirmed that from Monday 13 December, people are advised to work from home if they can, and that proof of vaccination would be required to gain entry to what he described as ‘large events’.
There is no mandate to cancel events.
He said: “We will also make the NHS Covid pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, and seated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.”
The prime minister also confirmed that the wearing of face coverings indoors would once again become mandatory, including for those attending indoor events. “From this Friday [10 December] we will further extend the legal requirement to wear face masks in public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas,” he said.
On Christmas parties, Johnson said they may go ahead but employers should encourage caution.
- From Monday 13 December, guidance to work from home will be reintroduced. “Go to work if you must, but work from home if you can,” the PM said
- Masks will be required in most indoor public venues Friday 10 December
- The NHS Covid pass, proving vaccination or a negative test, will be required in nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather from a week’s time
Chris Skeith, director of EIA, representing AEO, AEV and ESSA, told Exhibition News: “The positive we can take from this is that we have already been operating with the All Secure Standards since reopening, so in many ways it’s business as usual.
“It’s a massive win to have the continuation of lateral flow tests as an option which gives us so much more flexibility.
The other positive is that businesses have been given a week to get ready because that gives us space to put things in place.”
Skeith said the AEO had already asked government officials for further guidance on the details of the plan, such as how long measures would be in place and requirements to record covid-pass data and maintain GDPR regulations around medical records.
Skeith added: “By giving the work from home directive and adding these extra measures, it shows the government is saying these events are safe.
“The fact that he’s said that is good. It’s about building confidence.
“We are a compliant sector, we have been generally been doing these checks so to implement within a week isn’t a problem.”
“The prime minister has said these measures make safe environment.”
Skeith added that many events – including the AEO Centenary, due to be held on 10 December, had already implemented measure over and above the new Plan B rules.
Simon Hughes, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), which is the events industry’s umbrella body representing various trade associations, told EN’s sister title Conference News that there is “plenty of evidence” that the uncertainty around the impact of Omicron has already led to a wave of cancellations and postponements across the UK.
He said: “Changes to the working from home guidance will inevitably reduce business travel and attendance at events.”
However, Hughes added that traditionally risk averse events industry was already operating under Plan B requirements, with many venues already insisting on proof of vaccination or negative test already, with mask wearing broadly encouraged.
“The vast majority of organised events already operate under the Plan B requirements, requiring vaccine certificates to be shown on entry,” he said.
“The events industry is generally supportive of the introduction of Covid Passes but would like to see pre-event testing also part of any regulation.”
Hughes added that ONS research conducted at the time of Events Research Programme earlier in 2021 indicated that 15% more people were likely to attend an event where Covid certification was in place.
“The events industry operates sophisticated ticketing and pre-registration systems and is able to manage, and in some case merge, the Covid Pass with existing entry procedures.
“Some sectors of the events industry are not keen on seeing the introduction of Covid passports, but all sectors have been engaged with officials to ensure that the guidance in place for Plan B is based on our risk management expertise as well as the lessons learnt during the pandemic.”
This story will continue to be updated