Plan B is not yet needed and “there is no Plan C”

21 October 2021

In September, we gave details of the Government’s preparations for dealing with possible increases in rates of infection from the coronavirus as the winter months approach (see Winter plan for managing Covid and Government prepares for Plan B).

The proposals included a back-up plan “which would only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS”, leaving it to the Government to decide when that Plan B would need to come into play.

However, a number of NHS leaders and the British Medical Association (BMA) have begun speaking out, arguing that, with daily UK infections above 40,000 for eight successive days, it is time for action.

Indeed, the BMA accused ministers of being “wilfully negligent” for not reimposing Covid rules such as mandatory face masks, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been challenged over the refusal of many of his front bench colleagues to wear masks when in Parliament.

Speaking at a Number 10 press conference, he conceded the point about politicians needing to set a good example but insisted that there was no immediate need to introduce Plan B.

Instead he urged everyone to appeal to people who have not had their jabs to do so and called on them to also get the flu vaccine.

Mr Javid also recommended taking lateral flow tests before attending social events, or visiting potentially vulnerable people, and advocated wearing a mask “in busy settings”.

Daily cases could reach 100,000 in the UK this winter, he warned, but stressed that the NHS was not being overwhelmed and was “performing with distinction”.

In its press release following the news conference, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) chose to emphasise the parts of Mr Javid’s statement where he announced that “ground-breaking” Covid-19 antivirals could be available this winter after the Government clinched deals to secure two new treatments.

Before the antivirals can be authorised, however, they would first need to be evaluated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to ensure they meet the regulator’s high standards of quality, safety and effectiveness.

Finally, one of Mr Javid’s junior colleagues, the Minister of State for Health, Edward Agar, was asked about the decision to take no immediate action on the BBC’s Today programme.

He repeated the call for more people to be vaccinated and insisted that it was not the right time to introduce any additional measures.

Mr Agar firmly denied suggestions that Cabinet Office officials were considering a Plan C that would involve a ban on households mixing at Christmas.

“That isn’t something that is being actively considered,” he said.