Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced the introduction of ‘Plan B’ coronavirus restrictions in England, including asking workers to once again work from home if possible.
The reintroduction of restrictions, especially working from home will cost some businesses, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors.
Last month, after the Omicron variant was discovered in the UK, face masks were made mandatory on public transport and shops, including estate agents.
Prof Neil Ferguson, head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, said yesterday that another lockdown cannot be ruled out.
Among the new measures are fresh guidance on face masks and working from home, as well as the introduction of Covid passes to enter certain venues – here’s everything you need to know.
What are Plan B restrictions?
Johnson confirmed that aside from the guidance to work from home, rules on mandatory face coverings will return to “most public indoor venues”, including cinemas and theatres.
The NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory to access indoor and outdoor venues where large crowds gather. This includes unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people and unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, as well as any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Johnson said: “The NHS Covid pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out.
“And having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.
“As we set out in Plan B, we will give businesses a week’s notice, so this will come into force in a week’s time, helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others.”
Government guidance for those working within the home buying and selling process and those moving home:
This guidance provides advice to those working within the home buying and selling process and those moving home. Read it alongside the guidance on what you should do to keep safe.
Following the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, it is necessary to re-introduce some measures to manage the virus. This guidance sets out what these measures are and what you should do to protect yourself and others.
The housing market in England remains open. This means that people looking to move home can both continue with planned moves and view new properties to move into in the future. Estate and letting agents, removers, valuers, and people in sales and letting offices and show homes can continue working. Everyone should follow the guidance below to keep themselves and others safe.
General advice to industry and those moving home
The government urges everyone involved in the home buying and selling process to continue to follow good hygiene practices, including regular hand-washing, sanitising, and cleaning. These measures will help prevent the spread of infection.
They encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate.
How businesses can mitigate risk
All businesses should follow the government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses. Individual sector bodies may issue their own supplementary guidance in order to protect their members and their clients.
Face coverings should be worn by members of staff in estate agent premises, in accordance with the guidelines set out below.
Property agents, conveyancers and other professionals may choose to retain some modifications to how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could impact your move and may include initial virtual viewings before in-person viewings, asking you to vacate your current property during viewings, and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else views it or moves in. We would ask that you cooperate with these measures where they are in place.
The government has provided detailed guidance on reducing the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces. Employers should consider this guidance when completing their health and safety risk assessment, to help them decide which mitigations to put in place.
Those renting a property, letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety.
Self-isolating and quarantine
In most cases, you’re not required to self-isolate if you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:
- you’re fully vaccinated
- you’re below the age of 18 years and 6 months
- you’ve taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
- you’re not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
However, if you live in the same household as someone with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant, or are a close contact of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant, you will be required to self-isolate regardless of your age or vaccination status. NHS Test and Trace will contact you if this is the case.
The following key general protections continue to apply both to those moving home and those working in the industry:
- If you get any COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test.
- You must still self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
- If you are self-isolating, you should not view or work in other people’s homes for the duration of your isolation. Home viewings can continue to take place virtually, if possible.
- There are some legal exceptions which still allow you to leave home. Read the guidance for those with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection.
- You must follow the quarantine rules when entering England. Read the guidance on entering England.
All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change completion dates where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus.
Once you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if necessary; for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process, or has to self-isolate.
If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions or other necessary measures to manage these risks.
You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating. There is a greater risk that home moves may need to be delayed if someone in the transaction shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating.
Coming into close contact with other people
We continue to urge caution and personal responsibility in situations involving physical contact with others.
In England, face coverings must now be worn in shops and shopping centres, in estate agent offices and transport hubs and on public transport. In other indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet. Estate agents premises and other premises offering goods or services for sale will remain open, but customers and staff should wear face coverings in these settings.
Some people, including children under 11, are exempt from having to wear face coverings in any setting. Furthermore, anyone with a health condition or disability, which means they cannot wear a face covering, has a reasonable excuse for not wearing one.
Aside from self-isolation rules as detailed above, there are no legal limits on the households which may view a home in person. We would, however, continue to recommend that buyers take advantage of any opportunities to view homes remotely before committing to view in person.
In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should continue to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet. It is important that everyone continues to follow the safe hygiene practices as described above, and you should let in fresh air if people are viewing your property.
Tradespeople in the home
Tradespeople can continue to work in other people’s homes unless customers or tradespeople are self-isolating, as detailed above. In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should continue to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.
Members of the public should ensure their homes are clean and safe before tradespeople enter. This may involve cleaning items being carried by removals firms, wiping surfaces such as worktops and door handles, letting fresh air into rooms, and seeking to delay work if either party is showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Going further than this guidance
The above guidance describes the minimum best practices you should follow to help keep yourself and others safe.
If you want additional measures or reasonable conditions in place for your move, please talk to the appropriate business about how to proceed.
These measures could include, for example, placing a cap on the number of visitors viewing your home at any one time. These measures are at the discretion of the homeowner and we would ask you to accommodate their wishes.
Agents and other industry professionals should ensure their clients are aware of and comply with these additional requirements, where they do not discriminate against protected characteristics.