Boris Johnson pushed forward new Covid restrictions amid fears of an exponential rise in the Omicron variant, as his government was engulfed in a crisis of credibility sparked by the leaked Christmas party video.
With government experts warning of an estimated 10,000 UK Omicron infections currently, rising to 1m by the end of the month and up to 2,000 hospital admissions a day, Johnson insisted now was the time to act.
But Wednesday night’s announcement of the plan B measures came amid allegations Johnson’s own staff broke lockdown rules last year. Labour claimed he had lost his “moral authority” and some of his own MPs questioned why the public should now follow official advice. Many people are asking whether this could be a ploy to get the PM out.
At a Downing Street press conference, Johnson said people must work from home where possible from Monday and that face masks would be a legal requirement in most public indoor areas such as theatres and cinemas from Friday, with exemptions for eating and drinking in hospitality venues.
The Vaccine passports will be extended to nightclubs and venues available to the double-vaccinated on the NHS app. But Johnson insisted there was no need to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays, and nightclubs will remain open.
There will be a vote in parliament on the restrictions next week, with the government expected to face a substantial rebellion. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, was heckled in the Commons as he announced plan B.