Which COVID restrictions are changing in the UK and the Republic of Ireland?

UK

COVID-19 restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the Omicron variant toward the end of last year are now being relaxed across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

Boris Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that most measures under Plan B will end on 26 January, while work from home guidance has already been dropped.

Similar announcements have been made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after all four nations have seen a drop in case numbers.

Here are the latest rules in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

England

Restrictions on working from home were dropped by the government on Wednesday, with the prime minister saying England was reverting to Plan A “because of the extraordinary booster campaign”.

04/01/2022. London, United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Covid-19 press conference alongside Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England and Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Advisor in the Downing Street media briefing room. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
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Boris Johnson announced the changes in the House of Commons earlier this week

Mandatory COVID-19 passes for entering nightclubs and large events will end from 27 January, as will the rules around face masks in places where you mix with people you don’t usually mix.

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Secondary school pupils no longer have to wear face coverings in classrooms and guidance on their use in communal areas will also be removed.

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Mr Johnson also said that announcements on travel restrictions and care home visits will come in the coming days.

The legal requirement for people who test positive for coronavirus to self-isolate is expected to end on 24 March but could be brought forward if the data allows.

Current isolation rules remain in place, meaning anyone who returns a positive test result in England will have to isolate for five days.

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The length of isolation was cut down from seven days on 17 January and people will be able to end quarantine if they have negative lateral flow test results on days five and six.

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Scotland

While strict rules remain in place in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced this week that there would be some loosening of restrictions on 24 January.

The three-household limit on indoor gatherings will be scrapped, while the limit on the number of people allowed to attend indoor events will also be dropped.

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COVID measures in Scotland to be lifted

Social distancing in indoor public spaces will no longer be required and hospitality venues won’t have to restrict customers to table service.

Nightclubs will also reopen but face coverings will remain as a legal requirement on public transport and in shops, hospitality and leisure venues.

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Unlike in England, some COVID-19 passes requirements will remain in place, including in nightclubs, large indoor and outdoor events.

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But from 24 January these two changes will come into force:

Organisers of large events of 1,000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees rather than the current 20%.

The requirement to be fully vaccinated for the purposes of corporate certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.

Wales

Wales will continue on its roadmap back to coronavirus alert level zero later this month, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed on Thursday.

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Mr Drakeford said that the country has “passed the Omicron peak” and can keep lifting restrictions as part of its “careful and phased plan”.

From today, Wales moves to alert level zero for all outdoor activities.

This means there are now no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities, while crowds are allowed at outdoor sporting events once more.

Outdoor hospitality is also be able to operate without additional reasonable measures, such as the rule of six and two-metre social distancing.

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COVID passes are still required for entry to larger outdoor events of more than 4,000 people if unseated and over 10,000 people if seated.

From 28 January, the plan is for Wales to complete the move to alert level zero.

This will mean working from home will no longer be a legal requirement, while the rule of six will be removed in hospitality, cinemas and theatres.

Social distancing requirements in workplaces and places open to the public will be scrapped.

Northern Ireland

From midday today, people will no longer be restricted to table service and sitting in groups of six at restaurants, pubs and bars in Northern Ireland.

The current three-household limit on gatherings inside private homes will also be scrapped, but no more than 30 people will be allowed to stay overnight.

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N Ireland ends COVID rules

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has also agreed to change its self-isolation period to five days – providing people have negative lateral flow test results on days five and six, from today.

The guidance on working from home will be relaxed to working remotely “where you can”, while people will no longer be required to prove they are exempt from wearing a face mask in public spaces.

From 26 January, nightclubs will be able to reopen and vaccine passports will no longer be required to attend venues like pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

The new measures will be reviewed on 10 February and further changes could be introduced then.

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Republic of Ireland

The Irish government has been given the green light to lift COVID restrictions by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Nphet has recommended restrictions around hospitality can be lifted, including the 8pm curfew and live venues and sports venues can return to full capacity.

COVID passes will only be required for international travel but face masks are still recommended in shops and public transport.

Government ministers will meet today to assess the advice before Taoiseach Micheal Martin is due to make an announcement.

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