The Government’s announcement that mandatory face coverings will be extended to “most indoor public venues” in two days’ time as part of its move to ‘Plan B’.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister also stated people should work from home where possible, impacting operators near offices and in city and town centres.
In a Downing Street press conference tonight (Wednesday 8 December), the Prime Minister said: “It is now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, so we slow the spread of the virus buy ourselves the time to get yet more boosters into arms and especially in the older and more vulnerable people and understand the answers to the key outstanding questions about Omicron.
“So first, we will reintroduce the guidance to work from home. Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees.
“From Monday you should work from home if you can, go to work if you must but work from home if you can.”
Exceptions to rule
As part of Plan B, face coverings will be required in more settings than shops and public transport, as it is at present however, No 10 has confirmed face masks will not be required in hospitality settings.
Johnson said: “Second from this Friday (10 December) we will further extend the legal requirement to wear a face mask to most public indoor venues including theatres and cinemas.
“There will of course be exceptions where it is not practical such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.”
Furthermore, vaccine passports or a negative lateral flow test will be required to enter late-night venues and other events with large groups of people.
Johnson added: “Third, 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, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
“The NHS Covid Pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out."
He said: “Having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.
“As we set out in Plan B, We will give businesses a week’s notice, this will come into force in a weeks’ time helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity while giving everyone who attends them, confidence those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others.”
British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said the announcement was a “huge blow” for the sector and the work from home message would be devastating for pubs near offices and in town centres.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “The festive period is crucial to the recovery of our sector, so these restrictions could not have come at a more important trading time. They threaten the viability of pubs who will lose vital revenue over the Christmas period and so the Government will need to look at providing support.
“We are pleased though Covid passports are not applicable to the vast majority of pubs, as [the] Government has recognised this would have been totally unworkable.
“Its important to remember that pubs are a safe environment with less than 2% of Covid outbreaks traced to hospitality venues. We hope while following the new guidelines, customers continue to visit their local pubs this Christmas to spend quality time with friends and family.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls called on the Government for extended financial support in light of the announcement, echoing McClarkin's comments on venues in towns and city centres.
She said: “While the Government clearly acknowledges that hospitality is safe and can continue to host celebrations in the lead up to Christmas, the measures announced today will significantly impact consumer confidence and be particularly devastating to city and town centre venues.
"As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year. We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the government to stand behind our industry. That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.”