On the 8th December 2021, the Prime Minister confirmed the move to the government’s ‘Plan B’ of the winter Covid response in England. This was largely due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus, with early analysis suggesting cases could be doubling at a rate of as little to 2.5 to 3 days. In a televised update on Sunday the 12th of December, Boris Johnson warned of the ‘tidal wave’ of rising cases. 10 people were confirmed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to be hospitalised with the variant, with the first patient to die with Omicron on Monday 13th.
Following this announcement, the UK has also raised its Covid alert level from three to four, meaning that the transmission of cases is high or rising exponentially. On the back of this, measures across the UK are set to tighten, meaning that there are yet again changes to how businesses will need to operate in the coming weeks.
Amid growing pressures on the NHS, the Prime Minister has reiterated the importance of sticking to Plan B in England, with the measures set to expire on the 26th January 2022.
To help keep you in the loop with the new Coronavirus guidance, here are the changes to the guidance and how they may affect your business.
Work from Home Guidance Reintroduced in England
From the 13th of December, those who can are once again being urged to work remotely in England. Anyone who can’t work from home is still advised to go into their workplace, for example, to access mandatory equipment or where the role must be completed in person.
In Scotland, the advice to work from home where possible has been maintained. Wales is currently advising employers to undertake a Coronavirus risk assessment and take their own reasonable measures to minimise the spread of the virus.
At instantprint, we’ve limited our office capacity to allow for social distancing and advised the team that although they are encouraged to work from home, they should assess their own level of risk and are able to come into the office if they’re having technical difficulties or if they prefer working in the office. Allowing your team flexibility at this time is crucial as some will feel more comfortable working from home, whereas others may wish to combat loneliness which is common this time of year by working in the office.
If you are planning on offering the option to work from the office, ensure that you’ve carried out a recent Covid risk assessment and adjusted the space accordingly. This might mean providing hand sanitiser or encouraging the use of face masks with signage.
New Booster Goal Set
A new target has been set to give booster vaccines to all adults who want one by the end of December as Boris Johnson has declared an “Omicron emergency”. From Monday the 13th of December, anyone above the age of 18 will be offered a booster jab as long as it has been 3 months or more since their last vaccine. The boosters were previously only offered to those over 30 or the clinically vulnerable.
Of the new booster vaccine goal, Johnson said “It is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need. But the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose, a booster dose, we can all bring our level of protection back up.”
More walk-in appointments will be made available as of Monday 13th December to those who are eligible and more vaccine sites and mobile units are to be set up across England. There is also going to be more government support to aid booster vaccine take-up across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland is stepping up its booster vaccine goal to match England’s of having all adults vaccinated by the end of the year. Northern Ireland has also said it is stepping up its rollout to get as many adults vaccinated as well.
Early data suggests that getting a third booster dose of the vaccine gives individuals a 70-75% protection against Covid-19.
As a business, you may wish to consider allowing your employees time off during working hours to go and get their third vaccines to aid this new campaign.
NHS Covid Pass for Venues & Events
From the 15th December 2021, the following venues will be required by law to check that all visitors over 18 years old are fully vaccinated or have had a negative test in the last 48 hours:
- Nightclubs and other late-night dance venues
- Indoor events with more than 500 unseated attendees
- Outdoor events with more than 4,000 unseated attendees
- Any events with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sporting events and music festivals
However, some settings are exempt from these rules, including communal worship, weddings, funerals and other commemorative events.
To check whether your events’ attendees are fully vaccinated, you should ask to see their NHS Covid pass which can be found on the NHS app – make sure to give attendees a heads up that you’ll need to see this before the event by sending an email communication. Put up signs in your queueing area reminding attendees to have their Covid pass ready to show to your staff before they enter the venue.
To provide proof of a negative Covid test result, you can report your negative lateral flow test results here and use the NHS app to evidence this result.
For more information, here’s the NHS’s short video guide on using an NHS Covid pass for event entry admission in England:
Warnings of Further Measures
In Wales and Scotland, further measures have already been hinted at. Despite having the highest rate of booster vaccines across all of the UK nations, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that Scotland may see more Covid measures put into place over the coming weeks. It will be crucial for businesses across the UK to monitor updates to the rules.
Communicating the New Rules with Customers
With the ever-evolving response to the threat of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, it’s essential that all businesses keep on top of the new guidelines and what it means for them. It is your responsibility to ensure you’ve got everything in place to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep your team and customers safe. The government recommends using safety signage to communicate the latest rules on wearing face masks and coverings before entering your premises.
At instantprint, we’ve created a range of Covid-19 signage essentials to make it as easy as possible for you to get your key messages across loud and clear, along with free templates you can send to print today. Check out the full Covid signage range now to get started.