Mask Up For Omicron!

Businesses in Ruddington are weighing up the likely implications of new measures announced this weekend by the Prime Minister to try to stop a worrying COVID-19 variant spreading in Britain.

At the time of publishing, three cases of the so-called ‘Omicron’ mutation have been identified in the UK – one of them in Nottingham – and it’s feared there could be many more infections to come. Please find an update below*.

Following scientific advice, Boris Johnson has confirmed “temporary and precautionary measures” will be introduced from 4.00am this Tuesday, 30th November 2021, and then reviewed in three weeks.

These new measures include:-

  • Face coverings will be made compulsory again in our shops and on public transport
  • Everyone entering the UK (other than those coming from the Common Travel Area that covers the Channel Islands and Ireland) will have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result
  • All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for ten days, regardless of whether or not they are fully jabbed
  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – the UK’s vaccine advisory body – will consider giving the booster vaccine “to as wide as group as possible”. It will also reduce the gap between the second dose and booster

Swift action was this time taken because scientists have noted the new variant originating from South Africa contains a large number of spike protein mutations, as well as mutations in other parts of its viral genome. Since being spotted last Wednesday (24th November), urgent work has begun internationally to fully understand how these mutations may change the behaviour of the virus – with concerns it is more transmissible, could be more resistant to existing vaccines and treatments, and may cause more severe illness in those infected.

Hospitality venues, such as Ruddington’s pubs, have escaped new COVID-19 restrictions so far

However, the government has stopped short of implementing ‘Plan B’ – which would also have advised working from home and extending vaccine passports in England. The other good news for Ruddington’s pubs and cafes is that hospitality settings will be exempt from these temporary changes – meaning that no face masks will be required. However, there is still uncertainty at some outlets such as The Bottle Top and Philo’s Deli in Ruddington, which operate both as shops and hospitality venues.

Jess Hutchings from Philo’s says: “As we are a gift and coffee shop we will be asking customers to join us in wearing a mask at all times when moving around Philo’s. Our screens still remain in place protecting both our staff and customers. We look forward to welcoming you safely into our beautiful Christmas shop.” She adds: “Let’s work together and make sure Christmas happens!”

Of course, the changes will also directly affect commuters and shoppers who use Kinchbus 9, CT4N Services 22 & 23 & Nottingham City Transport’s Navy 3 & Green 10C/10X Rushcliffe Country Park/Ruddington Fields buses and the NottsBus Connect Service 863, in and out of Ruddington. All except passengers who are exempt will be required by law to wear a face covering again during the new period of restrictions.

Compulsory face coverings are back for bus passengers

Mike Ader, Chair of Ruddington Village Centre Partnership, says: “This development is clearly a potential concern for all, and our first priority must be about health and wellbeing.  I don’t believe people needing to wear masks in shops and on public transport (as they have had to continue to do in other parts of the UK throughout) should stop them from going out and visiting traders in the village in the normal way.” In fact, Mike reckons there may be some positives: “For some, especially the more vulnerable, this is likely to make them feel safer!”

Indeed, for one village-based business it’s a positive boon! Michelle Cain of BritMask – which sells high quality, reusable face coverings – reveals: “Our corporate business has continued to grow but retail sales did see a big decline following the original news that masks weren’t compulsory. European sales continued because it seems to be very much a way of life there. Now we’re snowed under with orders! So, if it’s time to refresh your collection, we have various colours and a little sparkle for Christmas, too!”

Leia Morales

However, the new travel restrictions will certainly come as a blow for villagers who were planning a foreign getaway. Ruddington based Travel Counsellor, Leia Morales, admits: “The latest series of announcements are a setback for the resumption of international travel but it’s hopefully only a temporary measure while they explore the new variant. COVID tests are part of travel, whether PCR or antigen, and are a cost to factor in to your holiday budget. It shouldn’t stop people from planning their holidays for 2022, because we can see how the situation can improve.”

Leia adds: “We have seen that, when things have improved, prices increased due to demand. Those who have planned ahead are getting much better value holidays. The resumption of the ‘red list’ and the speed at which the countries are added is a worry for travellers but seems only to be linked to the new variant. I recommend anyone travelling to sign up to the FCDO alerts for your destination to keep on top of any updates. This is what I do for all my clients.”

*UPDATED Wednesday 8th December 2021:

The Prime Minister today announced a move to ‘Plan B’ as the Government reacts to scientific concerns about the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreading rapidly in the UK.

From Friday 10 December, face coverings are mandatory for most indoor public venues including places of worship, theatres and cinemas – as well as on public transport and in places like shops and hairdressers. Owners of Ruddington’s hospitality venues are breathing a sigh of relief, however, as masks won’t be compulsory in our pubs or restaurants, nor in venues like gyms where it’s “not practical to wear them”.

Ruddington’s hospitality venues have escaped tighter COVID-19 restrictions so far

From Monday 13 December people should work from home “if they can”.

From Wednesday 15 December (subject to parliamentary approval), people will need an NHS Covid Pass – showing their vaccination status or a recent negative lateral flow test – to gain entry to:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
  • Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
  • Any venue with more than 10,000 people

Again, these new measures will not affect any venues here in Ruddington. However, the government is encouraging us to do a lateral flow test (LFT) before entering “a high-risk setting” – such as a crowded place – “involving people you wouldn’t normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person”.

People who’ve come into contact with Omicron cases currently have to go into self-isolation for 10 days. Ministers intend to change the rules shortly so they can do daily COVID tests, instead.

You can find further details of the latest Coronavirus rules in force across England >>HERE<<.

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