Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the scrapping of a number of measures under the Plan B rules this afternoon.
The move means Covid-19 passes, mandatory face masks and the requirement to work from home will be scrapped from January 27.
Speaking in the House of Commons today after a stormy Prime Minister’s Questions due to the ongoing row over parties in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said ‘scientists believe cases have peaked’, despite cases expected to continue to rise in settings such as primary schools.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “Today’s latest ONS data show clearly that infection levels are falling in England and while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.
“There remain, of course, significant pressures on the NHS across our country, and especially in the North East and North West, but hospital admissions which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago have now stabilised, with admissions in London even falling.
“The numbers in intensive care not only remain low but are actually also falling.”
Mr Johnson added: “So, this morning, the Cabinet concluded that because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire.
“As a result, from the start of Thursday next week mandatory certification will end. Organisations can, of course, choose to use the NHS Covid pass voluntarily but we will end the compulsory use of Covid status certification in England.
“Having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse the Government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere.
“From tomorrow, we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas.
“In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet – but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.
“As we return to Plan A, the House will know that some measures still remain, including those on self-isolation.
“In particular, it is still a legal requirement for those who have tested positive for Covid to self-isolate.
“On Monday we reduced the isolation period to five full days with two negative tests, and there will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.
“As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.
“The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them. Indeed, were the data to allow, I’d like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forward.”
Mr Johnson also said restrictions on visits to care homes will be eased further, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid setting out plans “in the coming days”.
It comes after the isolation period was cut from seven days to five days for people who test negative.