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Plan B: what nurses need to know about the new COVID-19 rules

Strategy to limit spread of Omicron includes mask-wearing in most public indoor venues
Nurse wearing mask

Strategy to limit spread of Omicron includes mask-wearing in most public indoor venues

Mask-wearing is set to become compulsory in most public indoor venues in England as part of expanded COVID-19 measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

Here’s what nurses need to know as the government implements its Plan B strategy.

What is Plan B?

The government announced the new measures on 8 December, which include the wearing of masks in most public indoor venues from 10 December, Covid passes for some venues, and guidance to work from home where possible.

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Strategy to limit spread of Omicron includes mask-wearing in most public indoor venues

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Mask-wearing is set to become compulsory in most public indoor venues in England as part of expanded COVID-19 measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

Here’s what nurses need to know as the government implements its Plan B strategy.

What is Plan B?

The government announced the new measures on 8 December, which include the wearing of masks in most public indoor venues from 10 December, Covid passes for some venues, and guidance to work from home where possible.

The guidance means nurses need to ensure they are wearing masks in venues such as theatres, cinemas and places of worship. This expands on existing guidance for masks in shops and when using public transport.

Masks mandatory in healthcare settings

In hospitals and other healthcare settings, masks remain mandatory for staff and visitors. Government infection prevention and control guidance for winter suggests mandatory mask wearing is likely to remain until at least March 2022.

Masks will not be required in gyms or when eating and drinking at pubs, restaurants and other venues.

The expanded booster programme

In early December the government expanded the COVID-19 booster programme, with jabs to be offered to all over-18s in the UK by the end of January, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The committee also advised that the gap between the second dose and a booster vaccination should be reduced from six months to three. This means an additional 14 million adults are now eligible for their booster.

The programme was open to people aged over 40 and those in high-risk groups as at 8 December.

RCN says everyone must stay cautious and not rely solely on vaccine

Carol Popplestone

Booster jabs are the main element in the government’s plan to deal with rising COVID-19 infections, including the Omicron variant, but the RCN warned that nurses are ‘concerned at the over-reliance on vaccinations’.

Chair of RCN Council Carol Popplestone said: ‘It is right that everyone gets a jab as soon as it is offered, but we must all also stay cautious – we all have a part to play in curtailing the impact of Omicron.’

The expanded booster programme is expected to lead to greater pressure on front-line workers amid concerns there are not enough staff to deliver the programme.

What are the mask requirements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Hospital staff, including those in non-clinical areas of hospitals, are expected to wear fluid-resistant surgical masks (FRSMs) ‘at all times’, according to Scottish Government guidance.

Staff who solely work in non-clinical settings where patient care is not provided will not be expected to wear FRSMs.

In Wales the guidance is the same as in England. All staff and visitors in hospitals and other healthcare settings are required to wear a mask, with the rules expected to remain in place until spring 2022.

In Northern Ireland staff and visitors to all community, primary and secondary care settings are required to wear a mask. Staff who work in a clinical setting must use a clinical grade face mask.

General rules for the public in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are separate from those in England because coronavirus restrictions are devolved to their respective governments.


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