UK: Boris Johnson rolls back Covid-19 measures including mandatory face masks, vaccine pass
British prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday (local time) announced the end of Covid-19 measures including mandatory face masks in England.
"Our scientists believe that is likely that Omicron wave has now peaked nationally. From now on, Govt is no longer asking people to work from home," he said.
Johnson further said that the UK was the first nation in the world to administer a vaccine, and one of the fastest in Europe to roll it out.
"This was because we made the big call to pursue our own vaccine procurement, outside of the European Medicines Agency (EMA)," said Johnson.
"We made the tough decision to open up last summer when others said that we shouldn't, and kept open this winter while others locked down. As a result, we have the most open economy and society in Europe, and the fastest-growing economy in the G7," added Johnson.
The UK PM also said that they are the first nation to emerge from the Omicron wave because it focused on NHS on delivering the fastest booster campaign in Europe.
"And it is because of the extraordinary booster campaign - together with the way the public has responded to the Plan B measures - that we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire," said Johnson.
Plan B measures refer to legally enforced face masks, mandatory Covid passes, and advice to work from home.
Johnson also said that his "government got the big things right". He said, "Confronted by the nation's biggest challenge since the Second World War and the worst pandemic since 1918, any government would get some things wrong."
The move comes amid a peak in Covid-19 cases in the UK and his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings accusations that the British prime minister lied to the parliament that he thought a drinks party held in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown was work-related.
"On 18 January 94,432 new cases and 438 deaths in 28 days of a positive test were reported in the UK," tweeted UK Health Security Agency.
A total of 52,133,611 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine, while 47,989,635 people have now received the second dose of a vaccine.
Meanwhile, 36,546,583 people have received a booster dose, added UK Health Security Agency.
The UK was the first country to raise alarm over Covid-19 mutations, to limit international travel over the Omicron variant, and in December introduced work-at-home advice, more mask-wearing and vaccine passes to slow its spread.
To reinforce its Indo-Pacific strategy, and in what is being seen as a response to China's aggressive outreach to Pacific Island states, the United States (US) - along with Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Japan - announced a new Partners in Blue Pacific initiative on Friday. This month, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, also undertook an eight country tour in the region and hosted a China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers Meeting in Fiji.
Russia's army has “fully occupied” the key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting, its mayor said on Saturday, an important strategic win for Moscow as it seeks to gain full control over the east of the country. The industrial hub of Severodonetsk has been the scene of weeks of running battles, but the Ukrainian army said on Friday that its outgunned forces would withdraw to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk.
President Joe Biden criticised the US Supreme Court for making “terrible decisions”, a day after it struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Biden commented during a signing ceremony on Saturday for gun safety bill he supports, though he continued to sidestep questions about reforms to the court sought by some Democrats. He didn't respond to other questions, such as on court or filibuster reform, before heading off to Europe for international summits.
Ukraine's Severodonetsk was "fully occupied" by the Russian army, its mayor said on Saturday, after weeks of fighting over the key eastern city. The Ukrainian army on Friday said it would withdraw its forces from the city of some 100,000 inhabitants before the war to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk. Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said civilians had started to evacuate the Azot chemical plant, where several hundred people had been hiding from Russian shelling.
Ukraine said it came under "massive bombardment" Saturday from neighbouring Belarus, a Russian ally not officially involved in the conflict, the day after announcing a retreat from the strategic city of Severodonetsk. Belarus has provided logistic support to Moscow since the February 24 invasion, particularly in the first few weeks, and like Russia has been targeted by Western sanctions -- but is officially not involved in the conflict.