UK Gov’t Reportedly Drafting Post-Xmas ‘Plan C’ COVID Response to Tackle Spread of Omicron Variant
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed in his Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that the government was now heading towards its Plan B coronavirus response, involving reimposing working from home in England, compulsory indoor mask-wearing and COVID passes for nightclubs and cinemas.
While the dust has not yet settled amid the ruckus triggered by the UK government’s coronavirus response ‘Plan B’ announcement
on Wednesday, reports suggest a ‘Plan C’ is already in the pipeline.
Stricter coronavirus restrictions prompted by concerns over the Omicron variant may be deployed in the UK after Christmas, reported the Daily Mail.
The country’s COVID-19
response officials and experts are said to be working on a draft set of measures, to be deployed, if necessary, in January.
The package includes mandatory face masks in all indoor spaces and school classrooms. Furthermore, these measures would reportedly include a mandatory “check in” with the NHS Covid app or by providing phone and email contacts in writing before venturing out to a pub or restaurant. A vaccine passport ( NHS Covid Pass) proving vaccination status or a negative lateral flow test would need to be provided at even more venues.
Also allegedly mulled is introduction of 10-day self-isolation for contacts of all confirmed cases of COVID-19, not just the Omicron variant.
It is believed that some of these measures had been on the table when Plan B was being conceived. However, they were reportedly overruled by ministers ahead of the announcement made by Boris Johnson on 8 December.
Boris Johnson indicated on Wednesday that he could not rule out introducing tougher restrictions if the new virus strain proved to be more dangerous than preceding Delta and Plan B failed to bring down cases.
He also attempted to reassure the public that while nothing was ruled out, the measures could be scaled back on more optimistic data.
“Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can… I know this will be hard for many people but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission,” said Johnson.
Regarding “forcing” people to get vaccinated
, the PM said if the jabs are shown to be successful at “holding” the Omicron variant then “there is going to come a point” when “we are going to have to have a conversation about ways in which we deal with this pandemic”.
The UK government revealed on Wednesday that a winter Plan B was to be enforced in England, with face masks required in public settings, including theatres and cinemas as of Friday.
People are to be encouraged to work from home as of 13 December, and from 15 December the National Health Service (NHS) COVID Pass, proving vaccination status or a negative lateral flow test, will be required for entry to certain venues, such as nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.
Announcing the new rules at a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described them as "proportionate and responsible."
Some 568 confirmed cases have so far been identified in the UK.
10 December 2021, 06:11 GMT
A rebellion is anticipated when the new plans are voted on in the House of Commons next week, with dozens of Tory backbenchers threatening to rebel or abstain. With the proposed new rules coming amid fallout from Boris Johnson’s handling of the lockdown-breaching Christmas party
scandal, many have questioned the timing of “Plan B” as a “diversion tactic”.
According to the BBC at least 22 Tory MPs plan to vote against the rules next Tuesday.
“What that looks like exactly is unclear, but it is unlikely to be a good day for the government,” Tory sources are cited as warning.
Another senior MP was quoted as saying:
“The mood on the backbenches is really angry. It’s going to be quite a sizeable rebellion. I think the government will only get this through with Labour votes.”
The Labour Party is likely to support the restrictions. Deputy leader Angela Rayner told BBC Breakfast she welcomed the measures so "people can have a safer Christmas".