THE return of masks has been the focus of many headlines but that is not the only change coming into force today.

After the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant efforts are now being made to stop its spread.

But what are the new rules and restrictions now in place across Worcestershire and the rest of England?

Mandatory use of face coverings

From today, you must now wear a face covering or mask in shops including the likes of banks, Post Offices and hairdressers - unless you are exempt.

You must also wear a face covering when using public transport in England. This includes buses, trains, planes and taxis.

The government guidance states that you do not need to wear a face covering in hospitality settings which included pubs, cafes or restaurants.

School children should also wear face coverings

The guidance states that students should also wear a face covering in all communal areas in educational settings and on public or school transport, if they are in Year 7 and above.

It states that this guidance should also be followed by staff and visitors when using communal areas in such educational settings.

But as with the rules on face coverings, those who exempt do not need to wear one while visiting an educational setting.

New rules on self-isolation

From today, you must self-isolate if you come into contact with a suspected Covid Omicron variant case, regardless of your vaccination status.

Previously, those who had come into close contact with any Covid case did not have to self-isolate, unless showing symptoms, if they were double vaccinated.

New restrictions when arriving into England

Affecting new arrivals and holidaymakers, new rules on those coming into England have also come into force today.

Now, anyone travelling into the country must take a PCR test on or before the end of day two after arriving, and must self-isolate until they have received a negative result.

The guidance continues to stipulate that PCR tests must be purchased from private providers as free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

When will restrictions be reviewed?

The government has already confirmed that these measures are "temporary and precautionary" as part of their response to the Omicron variant.

However, the measures are set to last for a minimum of three weeks which is when a review of such restrictions will take place.

What rules were already in place?

Many Covid rules were relaxed in July as part of 'freedom day' - but some rules did remain in place and will continue.

These include 1m-plus social distancing guidance in places such as hospitals and passport control.

People are advised to test for Covid before going to crowded places or spending time with those who are at greater risk from Covid.

And anyone testing positive has to self-isolate.