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Government updates Guidance in light of changes to COVID rules

COVID ‘What’s Changed’ Guidance updated

The Government has announced that England will move to Plan B in response to the risks of the Omicron variant.

This means:

  • From 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in most indoor settings.
  • From 13 December office workers who can work from home should do so.
  • From 15 December, certain venues and events will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.

Below are excerpts from the updated general guidance at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do#what-has-changed

This is only guidance but we expect regulations to be updated/made in due course.

Wear a face covering

From 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, including taxis. See a full list of places where you must wear a face covering.

This includes:

  • Bingo halls / centres
  • Amusement arcades, and
  • Casinos

There are some exemptions. You do not have to wear a face covering in hospitality settings such as cafés, restaurants and pubs. This is because it is not practical to keep removing face coverings to eat or drink.

You do not need to wear a face covering in nightclubs or certain other night-time venues, including dance halls and discotheques. This is because it is not recommended that you wear a face covering while exercising or during strenuous physical activity, including dancing.

Settings which are exempt from wearing a face covering include:

  • Restaurants, cafés and canteens
  • Bars and shisha bars
  • Gyms & exercise facilities
  • Photography studios
  • Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should still continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.

Work from home if you can

Office workers who can work from home should do so from Monday 13 December. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work – for example, to access equipment necessary for their role or where their role must be completed in person. In-person working will be necessary in some cases to continue the effective and accessible delivery of some public services and private industries. If you need to continue to go into work, consider taking lateral flow tests regularly to manage your own risk and the risk to others.

Employers should consider whether home working is appropriate for workers facing mental or physical health difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.

For those who attend their workplace, the Government will continue to provide up-to-date Working Safely guidance on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace. Businesses should consider this guidance when preparing their health and safety risk assessments, and put in place suitable mitigations.

Required use of the NHS COVID Pass

From 15 December, certain venues and events will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated (currently a full course of vaccination without the need for a booster, but this will be kept under review), have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or that they have an exemption. This means that those aged 18 years or over must show their NHS COVID Pass, or an alternative proof of a negative test result, such as an email or text proof, to gain entry into these venues.

You can access your NHS COVID Pass through:

  • the NHS App
  • NHS.UK
  • A letter that you can obtain on NHS.UK or by calling 119

The NHS COVID Pass lets you share your COVID vaccination status and test results in a secure way for entry to domestic venues or events.

You can obtain an NHS COVID Pass two weeks after completing a full course of vaccination or with a negative test in the last 48 hours. The NHS COVID Pass can be obtained with two doses (or one of the single-dose Janssen vaccine), but we will keep this under review as boosters are rolled out. You can also obtain an NHS COVID Pass if:

  • you have received a trial vaccine as part of a formally approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK
  • you have a medical reason that means you cannot be vaccinated, confirmed by your GP or a specialist clinician

You can also show email or text proof of your negative test result in order to gain entry to these venues.

The use of the NHS COVID Pass is required as a condition of entry into the following places:

  • nightclubs, dancehalls and discotheques;
  • other late night dance venues. These are any other venues that are:
  • open between 1am and 5am;
  • serve alcohol during this time;
  • have a dancefloor (or designated space for dancing); and
  • provide music, whether live or recorded, for dancing.
  • indoor events with 500 or more unseated attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as music venues with standing audiences or large receptions;
  • outdoor events with 4,000 or more unseated attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as outdoor festivals; and
  • any events with 10,000 or more attendees indoor or outdoor, such as large sports and music events

There are some settings that will be exempt from requirements to use the NHS COVID Pass including communal worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals and other commemorative events, protests, and mass participation sporting events.

Businesses and venues

All businesses should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance.

Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. The working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

  • identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue, for example by using a CO2 monitor, and taking steps to improve air flow in these areas
  • ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue
  • providing hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
  • communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place

Settings in which face coverings are required must display signage or take other measures to ensure customers are aware of the requirement to wear a face covering on their premises where there is no applicable exemption or reasonable excuse.

Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying NHS QR codes for attendees wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app so they are alerted if there’s an outbreak and can take action to protect others.

If you have any questions please contact Andy Grimsey at a.grimsey@popall.co.uk or give him a call on 07976 844 093

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