Working from home and mandatory face masks have already been brought back as part of the government’s “Plan B” to curb the rising tide of Omicron infections, but ministers are reportedly drawing up plans for further measures.
There has been no official confirmation of specific plans to introduce more protections, dubbed “Plan C”, but the government could be willing to take more stringent steps to curb the spread of the new variant “if necessary”, according to Boris Johnson’s spokesperson.
Whitehall officials were drawing up contingency plans as far back as October, but talk of Plan C has reportedly “ramped up in the last week” in reaction to the emerging data on the Omicron variant, said The Independent.
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Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are advising the government on the Omicron variant, have warned that the new strain could cause “more hospitalisations than last winter” if further restrictions were not introduced in their most pessimistic data modelling, reported the newspaper.
“Mask-wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough,” said Dr Rosanna Barnard, the co-leader of the study.
The prime minister’s Plan B measures were approved by the House of Commons this week, bringing back working from home and mask-wearing in public indoor venues, and Covid passes will now be required for entry into nightclubs and other venues with large crowds.
What could Plan C look like?
While ministers have not indicated there are any official plans as of yet, “speculation is rife” over what a wider range of measures might include, said the Daily Mail.
It could mean the return of “checking in” to pubs and restaurants on the much-maligned NHS Test and Trace app, as well as mandatory face masks in all indoor spaces, including those currently exempt such as hospitality venues.
Other measures could include:
- Covid passports for smaller venues like pubs and restaurants
- Rule of six returns for public indoor settings
- Return of table service and the one-metre rule
- New restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in care homes
- Ten-day quarantine for all close contacts of confirmed Covid cases, as recently introduced in Scotland
It is thought that schools would remain open in the event of tougher measures being introduced.
What about Plan D?
As with Plan C, there has been no official word on ‘Plan D’ measures, but Whitehall officials are considering “even more draconian” restrictions if Covid cases continue to rise as fears grow the UK could hit one million Omicron cases by December.
Under Plan D, hospitality venues, such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, would only be allowed to serve customers outdoors, and could face “complete closure” if infection levels continue to rise, reported the Daily Mirror.
The government has repeatedly denied there are any plans to introduce further curbs but, as the Daily Mail writes, Johnson would face a “massive battle” to get additional measures through the Commons.
After facing a massive Conservative backbench rebellion over Plan B, the prime minister was forced to rely on Labour this week to get the necessary votes. While Labour are “generally supportive of public health restrictions”, Johnson might find they “baulk” if asked to vote on further restrictions, said the paper.
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