Covid Plan B: what is it and will it work?

Boris Johnson’s Plan B for dealing with coronavirus will begin being implemented from Friday with the wider use of face masks.

David Hughes
Thursday 09 December 2021 11:22
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said introducing Plan B restrictions to curb coronavirus is a ‘proportionate and responsible’ response to the spread of the Omicron variant (Adrian Dennis/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said introducing Plan B restrictions to curb coronavirus is a ‘proportionate and responsible’ response to the spread of the Omicron variant (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said introducing new coronavirus restrictions is a “proportionate and responsible” reaction to the spread of the Omicron variant.

– What is in Plan B?

England’s new measures will include the wider wearing of face masks, a return to working from home, and the mandatory use of Covid passes for access to large venues.

– What are the new rules on masks?

From Friday, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship, but not gyms, bars or restaurants.

Masks are already required on public transport and in shops.

– What about working from home?

From Monday, those who can work from home are advised to do so. But the Prime Minister said Christmas parties and school nativity plays should still go ahead.

Empty seats on an early-morning commuter train on the District line in west London the morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Plan B (Martin Keene/PA)

– Will I need to show a Covid pass to get into a nightclub?

From Wednesday the NHS Covid Pass, on the NHS app, will become mandatory for entry into clubs and other large gatherings – classed as indoor events with 500 or more people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000, and any event with a crowd of more than 10,000.

– What has the political reaction been?

There has been fury on the Tory benches over the curbs on freedoms, with Covid Recovery Group leader Mark Harper warning there is no “credible exit strategy” from the new rules and that vaccine passports are “pointless and damaging”.

Former chief whip Mr Harper suggested Mr Johnson’s authority has been diminished by the Owen Paterson sleaze row and the alleged Downing Street party, saying: “Why should people listen to the Prime Minister’s instructions to follow the rules when people inside Number 10 Downing Street don’t do so?”

– Will the plans be derailed by a Tory revolt then?

Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday, but, as Labour supports the package, even a large Tory rebellion will not succeed in reversing Plan B

However, Tory former minister Steve Baker said it is “vital” that as many Conservatives as possible rebel because “this is now about the kind of future we are creating”.

– Will the measures work?

The Government hopes the measures will slow the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in order to buy time for the vaccine booster programme to bolster defences against Covid-19.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) from University College London, said “more social distancing, not going to work if you don’t have to, not going on public transport to go to work when you don’t have to, will make a difference”.

“I think it’s very difficult to predict whether that’s going to be enough, but I think it’s an essential first move,” he told Sky News.

– What do businesses think?

The Confederation of British Industry said “targeted support” could be needed for firms hit by the changes.

Hospitality industry trade body UKHospitality warned the measures could be “catastrophic” without extra government aid.

Michael Kill, head of the Night Time Industries Association, said clubs and bars must not be “thrown under the bus” for the Prime Minister to “save his own skin” following the row over the Downing Street party.

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