On Wednesday, December 8, Boris Johnson stepped up measures to try to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. The plan is to allow more people time to get vaccinations and booster jabs to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed this winter.
The measures included stricter rules around face coverings, advice to work from home where possible, and the requirement for some venues to demand attendees show their vaccination pass – or a negative test result from that day – in order to enter.
Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell welcomed the new restrictions.
He said: "It’s important that these steps are taken given that we have a new variant of concern. We don't know exactly how transmissible it is or how effective our current vaccines will be, but they don't change how we tackle Covid. There is no need to panic, we must just continue to try and limit the spread.”
He also told The Star that he had heard ‘nothing in the narrative about ‘Plan B’ related to tighter restrictions like the closure of venues. However, he warned that the Government ‘could and would’ introduce more measures if these ones did not work.
Experts believe the Omicron strain is doubling every three days, and could reach more than 40,000 cases before the end of the month. Mr Fell predicted that there could be a peak in January.
Rumblings of a ‘Plan C’ for if Plan B does not work date back to an article in the Telegraph published in October. However, what it may entail is unclear.
There have been no formal announcements, and indeed ministers have denied its existence. But speculation is rife.
Suggestions of what Plan C could entail include: expanding face mask rules further to include hospitality venues and school classrooms; 10-day self-isolation for contacts of confirmed cases of all Covid variants; and the return of check-ins at hospitality venues including pubs and restaurants.
The Plan B measures will be debated – and are expected to formally pass through Parliament – on December 14.
This means that the first review – and potential consideration of further measures – would be on January 4.