What is Plan B for tackling Covid in the UK this winter?

Scientists have said that working from home would be the most helpful measure for cutting rates of infection

Holly Bancroft
Monday 25 October 2021 10:03
Comments
Tory minister rules out winter Covid lockdown

Ministers have been told by their senior scientific advisers to start preparing for “rapid deployment” of basic Covid pandemic measures amid rising infections and hospitalisation rates.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the reintroduction of mask-wearing, working from home guidance and vaccine certification – key components to the government’s ‘Plan B’ – would “reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures” in the future.

In minutes published last Friday, Sage said that advice to work from home is “likely to have the greatest individual impact” in cutting infections, which are now increasing in the majority of age groups and regions across the UK, according to official data.

It comes after NHS chiefs have called on the government to take urgent action to halt the spread of coronavirus in order to avoid a winter crisis.

The NHS Confederation, a membership body of healthcare trusts and commissioning groups, said that the “plan B” strategy set out in September should now be implemented.

Under plan B, a contingency plan drawn up by government ministers, face masks would be made compulsory in some settings and people would be asked to work from home again.

Vaccine passports could be introduced for some venues.

The public would also be told “clearly and urgently” about the need to exercise caution to help control the virus.

Outlining the plan in the Commons last month, health secretary Sajid Javid said that although the need to implement such measures was “not an outcome anyone wants, it’s one that we need to be ready for just in case”.

The head of the NHS Confederation has warned that the plan B measures are necessary to ensure that efforts being made to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients will not be derailed.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the confederation, said: “We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luckfor us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

“The government ought not just to announce that we’re moving to plan B, but it should be “plan B plus”. We should do what’s in plan B in terms of masks ... working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

Despite the calls from NHS chiefs, the government has said it has “absolutely no plan” to introduce new measures, but added that it was keeping a “very close eye” on the data.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News on Wednesday morning that there would not be another national lockdown, saying: “I would rule that out.”

He added: “I think the conversation about restrictions on travel, restrictions on more lockdowns is completely unhelpful. We don’t want to go back into lockdown and further restrictions.”

On Tuesday the UK reported 223 Covid-19 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test – a seven-month high. The seven-day average for Covid-19 cases stands at 44,145 a day, which is higher than in other European countries.

  1. So what is ‘Plan B’?

    “Plan B”, a contingency plan draw up by government ministers, includes the reintroduction of some social distancing measures.

    It includes compulsory face masks in some settings, asking people to work from home, and introducing vaccine passports.

    Under “Plan B” the public would be told “clearly and urgently” about the need to exercise caution to help control the virus.

    Outlining the “Plan B” scenario in the Commons, health secretary Sajid Javid said that “although this is not an outcome anyone wants, we have to be ready just in case.”

  2. How likely is it that ‘Plan B’ will be implemented?

    The government has said that it has “absolutely no plan” to introduce new measures but added that they were keeping a “very close eye” on the data.

    Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News on Wednesday morning that there would not be another national lockdown, saying: “I would rule that out”.

    He added: “I think the conversation about restrictions on travel, restrictions on more lockdowns is completely unhelpful.

    “We don’t want to go back into lockdown and further restrictions.”

    Government scientific advisers will be monitoring the number of hospitalisations, any rapid changes in the figures, and will also take a broader view of the state of the NHS.

    On Tuesday the UK reported 223 Covid-19 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test - a seven-month high.

    The seven-day average for Covid-19 cases stands at 44,145 a day, which is significantly higher than other European countries.

  3. If this is ‘Plan B’, what was ‘Plan A’?

    “Plan A” has included offering Covid-19 booster jabs to about 30m people, including health care workers and people with certain health conditions.

    12-to-15-year-olds are being offered a single dose of the vaccine and the government is trying to encourage unvaccinated people to get jabbed.

    “Plan A” also includes encouraging people to go for their free flu jab and reminding people to wear face masks when they are in crowded places.

  4. Why do NHS chiefs want ‘Plan B’ implemented?

    The head of the NHS confederation has warned that “Plan B” measures need to be introduced or efforts being made to tackle the backlog of 5m patients would be derailed.

    Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We are right on the edge - and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

    “The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to Plan B, but it should be Plan B plus. We should do what’s in Plan B in terms of masks... working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in