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Boris Johnson has made some major changes in the lead up to Christmas in order to battle the fears over the Omicron variant – sparking fears another lockdown Christmas could be right around the corner.
The government's Covid Plan B will see the introduction of working from home from Monday if possible, to try and stop the rise in infections.
The Prime Minister addressed the nation in a last-minute press conference at 6pm on Wednesday evening, confirming it is now "proportionate and reasonable" to implement Plan B.
Face masks will also be made mandatory inside all indoor hospitality venues from Friday.
Boris Johnson said rules around the wearing of face coverings would be "further extended", as of Friday, to "most public indoor venues" including theatres and cinemas.
The Prime Minister told a press briefing in Downing Street: "There will of course be exemptions where it is not practical, such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing."
If it becomes clear that boosters can hold Omicron at bay then measures will be relaxed to normal, Johnson added.
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: "It has become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world."
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While 568 cases had been confirmed in the UK "the true number is certain to be much higher".
"Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron could currently be between two and three days," he said.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister's former senior aide, Dominic Cummings has hit out at the new coronavirus restrictions which he claims are being used as a 'dead cat' smokescreen to distract from the Christmas party scandal.
Plans will also see vaccine passports introduced for those looking to attend events which feature a crowd, such as gigs, theatre shows and sporting events.
The conference also saw the public again being urged to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and booster jabs.
This would mean disruption for those looking to go see a traditional festive pantomime currently on at venues up and down the country.
Rumours of the changes have been circulating on social media and in the press over the last few days with leaks of Boris already having made the decision.
Plan B comes after masks were reintroduced as mandatory in all shops and on public transport.
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Johnson added: "We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home. Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can.
"Go to work if you must but work from home if you can."
The latest measures may not be the last to be brought in before Christmas if numbers continue to rise.
Following last year’s tough restrictions, the British public are hoping to have some normality back during the festive period so they can continue seeing family and friends.
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Scientists revealed that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is highly contagious with new cases reportedly doubling every few days.
Johnson explained the decision to advice the public to work from home saying: "By reducing your contacts in the workplace you will slow transmission"
Asked about mandatory vaccines, Boris Johnson says he doesn't believe "we can keep going indefinitely" with restrictions on people's life just because a percentage of the population are not vaccinated. He says there has to be a "national conversation on this".
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Speaking in the House of Commons at the same time, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Omicron cases could exceed 1 million by the end of this month on the current trajectory.
He said: "Although there are only 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.
"The UK health security agency estimates that the number of infections are approximately 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and so the current number of infections is probably closer to 10,000.
"UKHSA also estimate that at the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days, by the end of this month, infections could exceed 1 million."
- Boris Johnson
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