MASKS, working from home and even vaccine passports could return under the Government’s Winter Covid Plan, Sajid Javid revealed today.
The Health Secretary unveiled a “toolbox” of tough contingency measures that could be imposed at short notice to wrestle down a fresh spike.
Speaking in the Commons, the top minister first laid out a five-pronged strategy to keep the virus at bay as the NHS enters its seasonal surge.
It includes a vaccine booster blitz, test and trace, pumping £5billion into the NHS for the next six months, a flu jab campaign and keeping robust border controls.
But the Cabinet Minister also revealed the Government’s Plan B in case the NHS risks being swamped and cases spiral out of control.
He told MPs: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”
They include legally mandating face masks in crowded settings, stressing the need for caution and ordering people to work from home.
While hated vaccine passports will be shelved for now – Mr Javid warned they could be suddenly introduced with a week’s notice.
Covid certification would then be required for all nightclubs, any indoor venue with more than 500 people, any outdoor settings with more than 1,000 people.
Boris Johnson will later announce his Winter Plan to the nation at a 3.30pm Downing St press conference with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.
In key Covid developments today:
- Mr Javid suggested expensive day 2 PCR tests for returning travellers will be axed “as soon as possible”
- JCVI boffins fleshed out the details for a booster blitz for the over-50s
- Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said lockdowns would be a “last resort”
- Kids aged 12-15 will receive a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine
Doomster scientists are worried the NHS could be swamped with a Covid surge in the colder months as well as the usual seasonal flu outbreak.
Deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van Tam today warned this winter could be “bumpy”.
Outlining a perfect storm, Mr Javid said: “We must be vigilant as autumn and winter have favourable conditions for Covid-19 and other seasonal viruses.
“Children have returned to school, more people are returning to work.
“The changing weather means that there will be more people perhaps spending time indoors, and there’s likely to be a lot of non-Covid demand on the NHS including flu or norovirus.”
There is also concern that vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant may be fading for older people who got jabbed at the start of the year.
Lockdown-hating Tory MPs were angry with the possibility of tighter measures returning in the coming months.
Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne erupted with a howl of anguish as Mr Javid warned that legal face coverings may be reimposed.
Ex-Cabinet Minister Esther McVey railed against “hugely damaging lockdowns and restrictions”.
A Tory rebellion is mounting against the PM’s wish to keep his emergency Covid powers – that allows him to plunge the country into lockdown.
BOOST FOR BRITAIN
Boffins from the JCVI held a separate press conference this morning fleshing out the details for the booster campaign.
Over-70s and the most vulnerable are expected to be jabbed first before descending in age order.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
Last night the PM rolled the pitch to warn we’ll still be living with Covid for the foreseeable future.
He said: “The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.
“Today I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.”
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