On Saturday, November 27 Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a Covid press conference to address the new Omicron Covid-19 variant which was first detected in South Africa.

At time of writing, 3 cases had been identified in England and a further 6 were confirmed in Scotland on Monday, November 29.

The Omicron variant has been ruled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation, and worries have been raised over its ability to cause reinfection.

To help slow down the spread of the new variant, a number of measures have been reintroduced in England. These will remain in place for 3 weeks when they will be assessed to see if they can be removed or extended.

The rules will come into effect on Tuesday, November 30 and include the reintroduction of mandatory face masks. But masks are only required in some settings.

Where you will have to wear a facemask in England

From Tuesday, November 30 face masks will be mandatory in all retail settings unless you are exempt. This includes shops, supermarkets and banks. They will also be mandatory on public transport.

The government website states face coverings must be worn in “shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

Where you don’t have to wear a facemask in England

Hospitality settings are exempt from the mask mandate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his press conference that measures were “temporary and precautionary".

Mr Argar told BBC Breakfast: "It's partly in the nature of pubs and restaurants and hospitality venues where people are eating, drinking... (they) may go to a bar to order a drink, but will often then sip the drink on their way back to their table where they will be seated. It's about striking a proportionate balance."

He continued: "As I said, it's in the nature of the venue. In a pub, you're drinking. You can't do that if you're wearing a mask. And in restaurants, you're normally seated at your table to give your order, you stay at your table with your group of friends or your partner or whoever you're there with, and similarly in pubs you are normally - even when you're standing up rather than sitting down - you're drinking.

"And therefore it's in the nature of the hospitality industry, the hospitality trade. And therefore, we think this is a proportionate and reasonable way to put in a precaution to give us that time to better understand this variant by slowing down the seeding and the spreading of it."

New Covid measures introduced by Boris Johnson 

Several measures are being reintroduced in England from Tuesday, November 30.

  • Those who come into contact with a suspected Omicron case will need to isolate for a full 10 days. Unlike previous rules, this will be the case whether or not you are fully vaccinated.
  • From 4am on Tuesday, November 30 all travellers in the UK will be required to take a PCR test on or before day 2 and self-isolate until they have received a negative test result.
  • The JCVI is also meeting on Monday, November 29 to discuss whether booster jabs should be extended to all adults.