Covid winter plan: Mandatory masks and work from home order could return to stave off more lockdowns, says Boris Johnson

MASKS, working from home and even vaccine passports could return under the Government's Winter Covid Plan, Boris Johnson warned today.

The PM unveiled a "toolbox" of tough contingency measures that could be imposed at short notice to wrestle down a fresh spike.


Speaking at a Downing Street briefing he was bullish that his plan "will give us the confidence we don't need to go back to the lockdowns of the past".

But gloomy top docs warned of a winter surge as pupils return to schools and the NHS grapples with its usual seasonal strain.

Prof Chris Whitty warned: "Winter is coming, and people should still take this seriously."

In key Covid developments:

  • The Government unveiled a five-point Plan A that centred on jabs, testing and border controls
  • Another national lockdown was not ruled out to crack down on worrying new variants
  • Vaccine passports could still be used for indoor settings like nightclubs and pubs
  • Over-50s and the most vulnerable will be given a booster shot starting this autumn
  • Prof Chris Whitty said anti-vaxxers such as Nikki Minaj spreading misinformation "should be ashamed"

PLAN A

Mr Johnson said Britain's jabs rollout had put the country on a strong footing to weather the colder months.

The PM said: "The result of this vaccination campaign is we have one of the most free societies and one of the most open economies in Europe.

"That's why we're now sticking with our strategy. In essence, we're going to keep going."

Earlier Health Secretary Sajid Javid laid out the Government's five-pronged Plan A to keep the virus at bay as the NHS enters its seasonal surge.

It includes a vaccine booster blitz, test and trace, pumping £5billion into the NHS for the next six months, a flu jab campaign and keeping robust border controls.

PLAN B

But speaking in the Commons Mr Javid also revealed the Government's Plan B in case hospitals risk being swamped.

He told MPs: "We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS."

They include legally mandating face masks in crowded settings, stressing the need for caution and ordering people to work from home.

While hated vaccine passports will be shelved for now – Mr Javid warned they could be suddenly introduced with a week's notice.

Covid certification would then be required for all nightclubs, any indoor venue with more than 500 people, any outdoor settings with more than 1,000 people.

WINTER WORRIES

Doomster scientists are worried the NHS could be swamped with a Covid surge in the colder months as well as the usual seasonal flu outbreak.

Deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van Tam today warned this winter could be "bumpy".

Outlining a perfect storm, Mr Javid said: "We must be vigilant as autumn and winter have favourable conditions for Covid-19 and other seasonal viruses.

"Children have returned to school, more people are returning to work.

"The changing weather means that there will be more people perhaps spending time indoors, and there's likely to be a lot of non-Covid demand on the NHS including flu or norovirus."

There is also concern that vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant may be fading for older people who got jabbed at the start of the year.

Lockdown-hating Tory MPs were angry with the possibility of tighter measures returning in the coming months.

Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne erupted with a howl of anguish as Mr Javid warned that legal face coverings may be reimposed.

Ex-Cabinet Minister Esther McVey railed against "hugely damaging lockdowns and restrictions".

A Tory rebellion is mounting against the PM's wish to keep his emergency Covid powers – that allows him to plunge the country into lockdown.

BOOST FOR BRITAIN

Boffins from the JCVI held a separate press conference this morning fleshing out the details for the booster campaign.

Over-70s and the most vulnerable are expected to be jabbed first before descending in age order.

🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates

Last night the PM rolled the pitch to warn we'll still be living with Covid for the foreseeable future.

He said: "The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms. 

"Today I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made."



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