No, not the rapper.

England is moving into Plan B to combat rising cases of the new Omicron COVID variant that scientists say could skyrocket in the coming weeks. Up until the end of November the Government had been insisting that all was going well and that Plan A, the most minimal amount of restrictions possible, was working.

However, the discovery of Omicron and the subsequent rising cases in the UK have pushed the Government into enforcing Plan B, and have not ruled out further measures if needed.

Here is what is about to change for those in England.

Plan B measures to combat Omicron

It’s worth remembering that in Wales and Scotland the wearing of masks and face coverings has been mandatory in certain settings for a while now.

  • From Monday 13th December people will be asked to work from home where they can. This will see plans for more returns to offices scuppered. For others, flexible working has been a way of life for nearly two years and won’t be that disruptive.
  • From today, people will need to wear a mask in additional settings such as cinemas and theatres. Mask-wearing was brought back into place over a week ago for retail and other shops, including showrooms in our sector. The wearing of masks in pubs, restaurants and gyms is not required.
  • From Wednesday 15th December COVID passports will be required in nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 capacity, unseated outdoor venues with 4000 capacity or more and any venue with a capacity of 10,000 or more.

In terms of effects on the UK fenestration sector, the only rule that would see any changes to how a business operates is the wearing of masks in showrooms. This was brought in earlier so any new rule changes from today, Monday next week or Wednesday shouldn’t really affect what our sector does.

For Wales and Scotland, the compulsory wearing of masks and COVID Pass requirements for some venues have been in place for a number of months now. There are also signs in Scotland that they may be moving to stricter restrictions before too long. Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out using stronger measures if they are required, and only yesterday their public health board urged people to cancel their Christmas parties, although this has not been made mandatory.

You can find a breakdown of current rules and restrictions across the UK nations here.

If you feel some kind of spectre of the past lurking over your shoulder, you’d be justified. The language from Government has begun to change. The refusal to rule out further measures if required is very much the language of 2020. Travel restrictions have been put back in place. We’re not in a lockdown, and it would be incredibly unlikely that we would ever return to that, given the damage that would do to the economy. Although other nations around the world are indeed back in lockdown so I guess we can’t rule it out entirely. Despite Omicron and Plan B restrictions, I don’t think we’re headed back to square one. We have made much progress across many fronts.

Compliance under threat

However, there is one huge thing to consider whilst these new rules come into place and that is whether the population is going to comply in the same way it has done in the past.

On Wednesday, when Boris Johnson spoke to the nation at 6pm, about 6 hours earlier he was grilled at PMQ’s over various private parties taking place to Number 10 whilst the rest of the country was put back into lockdown. The anger and venom this particular story has caused has been palpable and is a genuine risk to the premiership of Boris Johnson. Any credibility he had is now gone, and that is the problem. When it is one rule for Government and one rule for everyone else, asking the population to do as it is told becomes incredibly difficult.

I have already had messages on social media telling me they won’t be complying with any new rules. There is most certainly a different attitude now in combatting the pandemic compared to previous phases of the crisis. It does feel as though the parties at Number 10 were the final straw and that large parts of the country will simply ignore what they’re being asked to do. The difficulty in policing new rules is that should anyone be challenged as to why they are not doing what they have been asked to, people’s responses will be “well Boris and the Government did what they want, then so will I!”

It’s highly likely that compliance with the new rules will be significantly lower than it has been in the past. Whether you think that is right or wrong is a separate debate. The one rule that I think will cause the most anger is the COVID passport. Many are in favour, many are not. Large venues are going to have to rapidly put in place infrastructure to facilitate that, for example, football stadiums and large entertainment venues. Those that are not vaccinated or those that don’t believe that this type of thing is good for society will be locked out of those parts of the economy. This creates a two-tier society that many won’t agree with, whether you are vaccinated or not.

This won’t be the end of the debate or anger, and the coming months could be very rocky both politically and on the health front.

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