Covid – Rules tightened in UK following discovery of new variant

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

New measures and restrictions have been introduced this week as new Covid variant ‘Omicron’ has been identified as a serious health threat in the follow up to Christmas

What do we know about Omicron?

Due to the Omicron strain being discovered very recently, there is little information on the new strain of Covid. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) regarding transmissibility and severity it is ‘not yet clear’ whether Omicron is either more easily spread or more critical than previous strains.

Following the emergence of the new Omicron variant of Covid, PM Boris Johnson outlined a number of new measures on Monday to combat the spread of the new virus, although this does not include a new mandate for ‘working from home’ in England, instead the Government stated that it is ‘up to employers’ to make that judgement call.

Is the new Covid strain likely to affect workers and businesses in the UK?

Early evidence shows that the new Omicron variant is likely to affect both workers and employers alike over the Christmas period, despite the Government deciding against reintroducing work from home measures in England.

Head of trade body UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls warned that businesses were already “seeing cancellations into next year”. She also stated that hotels, bars and restaurants were only around 75% booked for the Christmas period, in contrast to the 95% that is usually the norm around this period.

The new variant could also see a rise in regular testing within workplaces again, and employers may also urge workers to also regularly test from home to avoid transmission of the virus. As an extension of this, many employers are likely to reintroduce more strict social distancing measures within the workplace in another attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

What are the new rules regarding covid?

Face Masks

The announcement earlier this week sees face masks once again becoming compulsory in shops, banks, hairdressers, post offices and on all forms of public transport, although the new laws to not stretch to pubs and restaurants. Anyone who is found breaking these new rules will now also be subject to a £200 fine.

As an extension of this, anyone in education from Year 7 upwards (including University students) will be urged to wear masks in communal areas of school/university, unless exempt.

Isolation Rules

Anyone identified as to have been in contact with someone who has contracted the new Omicron variant of Covid will now be required to self-isolate, whether vaccinated or not, for 10 days.

Travel Restrictions

Anyone arriving into the UK from abroad will now be required to take a 2 day PCR test, and to isolate until they receive a positive result. In addition to this, only British and Irish citizens will be allowed into the UK from ‘red-listed’ countries. These individuals will still need to show a negative test within 3 days of departure and will be required to isolate for 10 days in a Government approved hotel upon arrival.

For anyone that needs or is required to partake in a PCR test, click here to find out where your nearest local testing center is