When is Boris Johnson’s next announcement?
The Prime Minister will review the latest Covid-19 data with his Cabinet on Wednesday morning, before making a statement to MPs in the afternoon.
The announcement comes amid mounting pressure for Mr Johnson to resign after revellations over lockdown-breaching parties and gatherings held in Downing Street in 2020 and 2021, when restrictions were still in place.
While no final decision on lifting Plan B rules has been confirmed, any attempt to extend measures beyond the 26 January cut-off date could trigger a fresh confrontation with Tory MPs, something the PM will want to avoid as his leadership has already been weakened over the recent scandals.
It is reported that 54 letters could be received on Wendesday to launch a no confidence vote in Mr Johnson.
Reports on Tuesday (8 January) night suggested MPs already furious over the handling of the partygate scandal engulfing Westminster had been further angered by Mr Johnson’s insistence that nobody had told him a party at Downing Street would break rules he himself had set.
What has been said about Plan B Covid rules?
Plan B Covid-19 restrictions introduced in England last month to tackle the Omicron variant are due to expire on 26 January.
Such rules include the use of Covid passes to access certain venues and events, such as nightclubs, mandatory mask wearing in most indoor places and on public transport, and work from home guidance.
Reports suggest that the PM may opt to keep mask-wearing in place beyond 26 January, but Covid passes and work from home advice are likely to be axed.
A government spokesperson said ahead of the PM’s announcement: “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.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has hinted that restrictions could be eased next week, saying he is “cautiously optimistic” that current rules can “substantially reduce”.
Mr Javid told MPs it was likely the UK has “already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations” as ministers prepare to review Plan B measures for England next Wednesday.
Speaking in the Commons, he said: “The action that this Government has taken in response to Omicron and the collective efforts of the British people have seen us become the most boosted country in Europe, the most tested country in Europe, and (have) the most antivirals per head in Europe.
“That is why we are the most open country in Europe.
“I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary.
“Due to these pharmaceutical defences and the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week.”
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