The government said it needs to be ready with a plan B to deploy stricter measures if the NHS is going to come under “unsustainable pressure” from the pandemic
The health secretary announced that the mandatory use of face masks, vaccine passports, and work from home orders could be returning this winter as part of a “plan B” to deal with the pandemic.
Sajid Javid has said that if the data shows the NHS is likely to come under “unsustainable pressure” from the COVID-19 pandemic once again, the government has prepared a “plan B” to be implemented within England.
This will include:
• Making the wearing of face masks legally mandatory in certain settings
• Requesting that people work from home if possible, for a limited period of time
• Introducing mandatory vaccine certificates for nightclubs, indoor settings with 500+ attendees likely to be close, outdoor settings with 4,000+ people likely to be close, and any setting with 10,000+ attendees such as sports and music stadia
• Communicating clearly and urgently the level of risk has risen, so more caution needs to be taken
Lockdowns are also to be considered “as a last resort” if plan B does not end up working.
Mr Javid said in the House of Commons: “Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it’s one that we need to be ready for just in case.”
This comes after all over 50s are set to be offered another booster jab of the vaccine by Christmas as part of the government’s plans to tackle the virus. A national rollout of a Covid-19 booster jab is expected to be announced later as part of Boris Johnson’s ambitious winter plans to tackle the virus.
Downing Street has said that there was no metric for triggering plan B measures, with the Prime Minister’s spokesperson saying that a new variant of the virus or benchmark of new cases per week would not necessarily mean that a move to the back-up plan would be on the cards.
He said that a range of data would need to be considered, including the number of patients within hospital, increase in hospital admissions, ratio of coronavirus cases to hospital admissions, and the trajectory of any new cases.
“All of those sorts of things would need to be factored in alongside vaccine effectiveness, waning immunity, etcetera,” he said.
“It is right to look at a range of metrics and not be overly prescriptive and consider the latest advice we are getting from experts, like Professor Whitty (England’s chief medical officer) and others.”
The health secretary had announced the government’s autumn and winter plan for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes vaccine booster jabs for the first nine groups that had been offered vaccines at the end of 2020, as well as at the beginning of 2021.
He suggested that people meet outdoors if possible during the winter months and wear face masks within crowded, enclosed spaces, which was met with jeers by maskless MPs from within his own party.
This comes after children aged 12-15 should be offered a COVID vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) have decided. The move means around three million children aged 12-15 could be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to be administered through schools.
And the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said that the UK government must “leave no stone unturned” in its bid to keep the nation’s economy open.
Mr Javid suggested that PCR tests for double-jabbed travellers will be scrapped in favour of the cheaper lateral flow tests, but said the transport secretary will be making a statement on travel ahead of a review on the 1st of October. The travel traffic light system is also set to be scrapped.
Mr Javid added that it is “highly likely” frontline NHS staff and social care settings will be required to have both COVID-19 and flu vaccinations in order to work following an ongoing consultation.