This Thursday sees the lifting of the government’s so-called ‘Plan B’ Coronavirus measures in England – brought in by Boris Johnson last November due to the threat of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 overwhelming our NHS.
Whilst the number of cases in the UK surged again over Christmas, recent data suggests a levelling off of Coronavirus infections and a generally less severe illness from the new strain – at least for those who are vaccinated or who have had a previous COVID-19 infection and recovered from it.
Therefore, from January 27th 2022, the government has announced:
- face masks will no longer be compulsory in secondary school classrooms, and won’t be required in communal areas
- face coverings will not be legally required in any setting
- the government ‘recommends’ that people wear face coverings in enclosed or private spaces, but this will be a personal judgement
- face coverings must still be worn in ‘medical’ settings such as our doctors’ surgeries, dentist’s and Evans Pharmacy
Despite the general lifting of restrictions, Ruddington’s main public transport provider is echoing the caution of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who has confirmed masks will remain mandatory on all Transport For London services.
Here, Nottingham City Transport (NCT), which operates our Navy 3 and Green 10 village bus services, says: “The government recommends that you still wear a face covering in most indoor places and on public transport. Whilst they are no longer mandatory, we ask you to show consideration towards others on the bus and continue to wear a face covering, unless you are exempt.”
It follows continuing and repeated UK Health Security Agency warnings that choosing to wear a face covering in crowded, indoor spaces can help to stop the spread of the highly infectious Coronavirus. “You could be breathing COVID-19 onto your friends. Always take a lateral flow test before you meet up, especially in enclosed spaces. If it’s positive, stay at home, protect your mates” it advises.
NCT also reminds its passengers:
- Do not travel if you are unwell, have COVID symptoms or should be self-isolating
- Sanitise your hands as you get on and off the bus, using the sanitiser dispenser near the doors (pictured)
- Keep windows open for ventilation, which alongside the frequent opening of doors, ensures a regular flow of air through the bus
Even though the self-isolation period with Omicron has been reduced to five days (assuming you have two negative lateral flow tests on consecutive days at the end) the number of staff absences with COVID-19 has caused a major headache for many employers. In fact, most of our Ruddington bus operators remain on a reduced timetable due to a shortage of drivers caused by a combination of the Coronavirus and some employees leaving public transport to take up more lucrative lorry driving jobs instead.
Earlier this month NCT agreed an industry leading wage increase of up to £1 per hour, for its top rate drivers, to try to stem the exodus and encourage more to join the company.
Some welcome news is that the most recent government COVID-19 statistics indicate that case rates here in Ruddington fell by 27.9% in the seven days up to January 21st; down to 619.2 per 100,000 people – which is significantly below the current national average of 945.2 per 100,000.
Whilst most Ruddington shops and businesses will no longer require the wearing of face coverings on their premises from January 27th, some are requesting that shoppers keep them on. Honeycomb Christian Charity Shop manager Zoe Parton asks: “We at Honeycomb would really appreciate our customers continuing to wear masks whilst in our shop, as it is a small space and many of our volunteers are elderly and/or vulnerable.”
At all premises, villagers are requested to respect the decision of those who wish to continue wearing a face covering – and also to maintain two metre ‘social distancing’ from others who are not in their household, wherever possible.