Face coverings are back after discovery of Omicron Covid variant

The government says it has brought in the new rules to 'buy time' to find out more.
Photo of teenager wearing face mask from Pixabay

Reading people need to return to wearing face coverings in certain places as part of latest government measures to deal with the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The first Omicron cases in the UK were confirmed on 27 November 2021.

“Early indications show this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Compulsory face coverings and rules for travellers apply from 4am, Tuesday 30 November 2021, while advice to schools came in a day beforehand.

New rules for the public

Face coverings

  • You must wear face coverings in shops, banks, post offices, hairdressers and on public transport (unless you are exempt)
  • Secondary school pupils in year 7 and above, staff and visitors should wear face coverings in communal areas, but not in classrooms or outdoor areas
  • Pupils in year 7 and above should wear face coverings on school transport
  • Staff and visitors at primary schools and early years settings should wear face coverings in communal areas
  • University students, staff & visitors should wear face coverings in communal areas
  • Exemptions to face coverings include disabilities and communication needs


  • All fully vaccinated travellers arriving to the UK will be required to buy and take a PCR test on or before Day 2 and self-isolate until they get a negative test result
  • All travellers not fully vaccinated must test for Covid before and after arrival and and quarantine at home or where they are staying for 10 days
  • Exemptions may apply for children and in other cases – see full travel guidance
  • Anyone arriving from ‘red list’ countries must go into hotel quarantine in the UK

Contacts of Omicron cases

  • All people identified as a close contact of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must isolate for 10 days
  • This rule applies regardless of your vaccination status
  • NHS Test and Trace will contact you if you are affected

The government says it will review measures in three weeks’ time ahead of Christmas. To check latest guidance, visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

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