UK’s ‘Plan B’ for Coronavirus Wave Confirmed to Include Vaccine Passports, Mask Mandates

Pedestrians, some wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has revealed the government’s “Plan B” if the Chinese coronavirus surges in the Winter, which includes mask mandates, working from home, and the possible introduction of domestic vaccine passports.

Plan A of the government’s Autumn and Winter Covid response attempts to “sustain the progress made” and ensure the National Health Service (NHS) does not come under “unsustainable pressure”, including employing measures such as the use of pharmaceutical interventions like vaccines, antivirals, and disease-modifying therapeutics; identifying and isolating cases; and managing pressures on the health and social care services.

Announcing the contingency plans, Mr Javid told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “We’ve seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change. So we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

“These measures would be: communicating clearing and urgently to the public the need for caution; legally mandating face coverings in certain settings; and whilst we’re not going ahead with mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification now, we’ll be holding that power in reserve.

“As well as these three steps, we consider a further measure of asking people to work from home if they can for a limited time if that is supported by the data. 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.”

At the mention of the return of the mask mandate, an audible howl was heard from the benches, which the Press Association reported was from prominent lockdown sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne, while the health minister’s earlier advice for wearing masks in crowded spaces was met with jeers from other MPs.

A Number 10 spokesman later told The Guardian that there was no specific metric for how Plan B measures would be triggered, suggesting, however, that the number of patients in hospital would be an “important factor” as well as “the rate of increase in hospitalisations, things like the ratio of cases to hospitalisations, and the trajectory of new cases” and other factors including vaccine effectiveness and “waning immunity”.

The confirmation that vaccine passports remain an option, if not for now then later, follows months of flip-flopping from ministers on the measures, with Sajid and Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey appearing to send different messages on their employment between Sunday and Monday alone.

Mr Javid also confirmed booster shots for over-50s from next week, the confirmation coming after Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested that Britons could be having annual Covid-19 vaccines, co-administered with the flu shot.

Mr Zahawi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday morning: “Where possible we will try and co-administer – with one caveat – with flu. GPs and pharmacies, which are the backbone of the vaccination programme, can rapidly vaccinate lots of people.

“This is probably the last piece of the jigsaw to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic and I hope by next year we will be in a position to deal with this virus with an annual inoculation programme as we do flu.”


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