Covid Plan B now had to end ‘winter meltdown’ and reapplying face masks and WFH won’t be a problem, No10 advisers say… but Sajid Javid insists Christmas WILL be ‘safe’ even without new restrictions ‘because cases would be 5,000 a day’
- No 10 advisers warned current number of cases ‘unacceptable’ as they called for curbing
- Plan B would be prudent and non-disruptive security in winter, they claimed
- Comes despite growing government optimism that the epidemic will shrink
Social distancing and masks must be reintroduced to avoid a “mid-winter meltdown” and save Christmas, several government scientists warned today.
They said the current infection rate was “unacceptable” and claimed vaccines alone were not enough to control Covid during the colder months.
It comes despite growing optimism among No10’s modellers who say the daily number could drop to just 5,000 next month as a result of growing natural immunity and booster shots.
But Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of an influential subcommittee of SAGE, said introducing “Plan B” would now be “sensible” security that is “not very disruptive.”
Professor Adam Finn, who advises ministers on Covid jabs, went a step further, claiming that mandatory masks and other curbs were needed ‘to get things under control’.
But Health Minister Sajid Javid has promised Christmas will be ‘safe’ as long as people over 50 and vulnerable Britons get their booster vaccines.
He told LBC Radio this morning: “The facts at the moment are that we don’t think the data should move us to Plan B.”
Ministers have drawn confidence from unusually optimistic SAGE modeling, which estimates the epidemic will shrink this winter or stay well below the ongoing waves.
The government’s winter emergency plans include bringing back masks and working from home. A lockdown has been described as an absolute ‘last resort’
The call for Plan B comes after No10’s modellers estimate that the number of daily cases could drop to just 5,000 next month as a result of growing natural immunity and booster shots. These graphs show the impact of returning to normal levels of social mixing in three weeks (top), three months (bottom), and the impact this would have on infections (left), admissions (center) and deaths (right) . The models show that cases plummet in November thanks to natural immunity, but rise in the spring when vaccine protection is expected to wane
Professor Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said it would be wise to go with Plan B now.
He told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘I don’t think it’s a binary choice for Plan B or nothing, it’s very clear that the measures included in Plan B are sensible and not very disruptive.
‘It is not problematic to provide clear guidance on the use of face masks, and working from home if possible is not particularly disturbing for many people.
“Those measures are likely to lead to a significant reduction in the really unacceptable number of cases we have now.
‘In my opinion the introduction of vaccine passports is also fine – it is very easily accepted in most other Western European countries.
“It’s very sensible, if you entered a crowded indoor space and knew that everyone there was fully vaccinated and maybe had a quick test that day, you would feel much more confident entering that space.”
It comes as a record that 325,000 people received their booster shot in one day, while more than 800,000 people received a third shot over three days as queues again formed at centers across the country.
Professor Openshaw added: ‘What we are experiencing at the moment is unacceptable that we have infected about one in 55 people, which is an astonishingly high percentage compared to most other Western European countries.
“This is related to the lack of clear coverage of sensible measures we should all take to reduce the spread of infection.”
His comments came after Professor Finn, a member of the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI), advocated Plan B on Sunday.
Speaking to Sky News, he said he wants to “re-emphasize the fact” that the vaccine alone may not be enough to protect the NHS this winter.
“We need people who use lateral flow tests, avoid contact with large numbers of people in closed spaces, use masks, all those things have to happen now if we want to stop this rise and get things under control soon enough to have a real meltdown in the middle of winter.”
Several other SAGE-affiliated experts have publicly lobbied for the government to move to Plan B, warning it is at risk of sleepwalking into another crisis.