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Betting Omicron has peaked, Johnson drops COVID rules in England

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday (January 19) announced the end of COVID-19 measures introduced to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in England as he looks to live with the virus after a peak in cases.

Britain was the first country to limit international travel over the Omicron variant, raising alarm bells about its mutations, and in December introduced work-at-home advice, more mask-wearing and vaccine passes to slow its spread.

But while cases soared to record highs, hospitalisations and deaths have not risen by the same extent, in part due to Britain’s booster rollout and the variant’s lesser severity.

Johnson said that none of the so-called Plan B measures would remain and face masks would not be legally enforced anywhere. COVID passes would not be mandatory and advice to work from home would end.

Johnson has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic overall, and Britain has reported 152,513 deaths, the seventh highest total globally. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have followed their own anti-coronavirus measures, generally with tougher restrictions, but have also begun to ease them.

The lifting of Plan B measures, could help Johnson appease vocal opponents of restrictions in his own caucus following furore over lockdown gatherings at his office.

He said that if data supported it, he may end the legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive before the regulation lapses in March.

(Production: Kristian Brunse)

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