Covid boost as vaccine minister rejects Plan B Plan A is working!

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Opposition politicians and some health experts yesterday urged the Government to trigger its “Plan B” contingency measures including reintroducing compulsory face coverings on public transport and new guidance to encourage people to work from home where possible. But Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup insisted the current Plan A, with individuals urged to take personal responsibility for trying to minimise the spread of coronavirus, was “working.”

Asked where case numbers will have to get to before the public will be asked to work from home, Ms Throup told LBC: “The public has been very patient in doing what we’ve asked them to do.

“And I think Plan A has actually opened up people’s lives and that’s so important because if we do need to take further measures I’m sure they’ll have appreciated exactly the freedoms we’ve been able to offer them at this time.

“Plan A is working, as I said, the data right now shows that Plan A is working.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said the official data on the pandemic did not show any need for the Government to change course.

Speaking on the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show, he said: “I think we’re in a very different place because of the vaccine rollout. 90 percent of the population have antibodies and although the winter was always going to be challenging for a combination of different factors that the booster rollout should give us the protection we need, and there is a fallback, there is a Plan B if we need it. 

“The data doesn’t suggest that we need it today, but if that changes then, of course, the government will be ready to act, that’s why those plans are there.”

“The Prime Minister actually just said that we’re looking at the data all the time, as you would expect us to.

“We’re monitoring everything, but at the moment the data does not suggest that we should be immediately moving to Plan B, but of course we will keep an eye on that and the plans are ready.”

Whitehall insiders yesterday suggested the Government will dramatically step up calls for people to get their Covid jabs including booster shots as soon as possible once eligible.

One source said: “There is no problem with supply of boosters. What we do need to up our game on communications. You will be seeing ministers getting out there telling people to get their boosters.”

Chief executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “Yesterday was the biggest day yet for Covid booster jabs: more than 325,000 people getting vital protection.

“In the past three days over 800,000 people have had their booster jab.”

Officials denied reports that preparations are already underway to roll out “Plan B.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We knew the coming months would be challenging ‑ this is exactly why we set out our Covid Plan for Autumn and Winter.

“We are monitoring all the data closely, and the Prime Minister has been clear that it does not yet show that Plan B is necessary. But it is ready should we need to act to avoid a rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

 “Our focus remains on our booster campaign, vaccinating 12-15-year-olds, and encouraging those who haven’t yet come forward to have their jab.”

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves yesterday urged the Government to introduce the “Plan B” measures.

“We think the government should do it, but we don’t want to let the government off the hook in terms of Plan A, and there are things in neither plan, like statutory sick pay and better ventilation, that are also needed. 

“So call it whatever you like but we need to do more to get on top of this virus, protect our National Health Service and stop more stringent measures having to be introduced further down the line,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), warned against complacency in what he said is a “worsening” situation.

He said people need to be testing themselves, wearing masks and avoiding crowds in enclosed spaces in order to prevent “a real meltdown”.

Prof Finn said that while vaccines are very effective at stopping people from getting seriously ill, they are not so effective at stopping infections altogether or stopping the virus from spreading.

“They do have an effect on that, but they’re not by themselves going to be enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control,” he said.

“And we do need to see people continuing to make efforts to avoid contact, to avoid transmission, and to do other things as well as get vaccinated if we’re going to stop this rise from going up further,” he told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News.

Prof Finn added: “I would like to re-emphasise the fact that the vaccine programme by itself, in the current situation, even if things go optimally, is not, in my opinion, enough to bring things under control.

“We do need to have people using lateral flow tests, avoiding contact with large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, using masks, all of those things now need to happen if we’re going to stop this rise and get things under control soon enough to stop a real meltdown in the middle of the winter.”

His comments came after another prominent adviser to the Government on Covid-19 said he is “very fearful” there will be another “lockdown Christmas” as he urged the public to do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.

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Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said case numbers and death rates are currently “unacceptable”.

He said measures such as working from home and mask-wearing are “so important” as part of efforts to control the spread of Covid.

Prof Openshaw also advised people to “take matters into your own hands”, telling BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “Don’t wait necessarily for Government policy.”

Meanwhile, Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said people need to try to minimise the need for healthcare resources.

She told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “We didn’t go into the pandemic in a great place in emergency care. We didn’t have enough beds then.

“The problem is that things are worse at the moment so we need everybody to be as careful with the healthcare resources as they possibly can be, and try and minimise the need for healthcare resources.

“So if we’ve got 8,000 patients in hospital who are suffering Covid, if we didn’t have those patients that would be another 8,000 beds in the system.

“So every bed that gets filled by a patient with Covid in a sense is in a hospital bed with a potentially avoidable disease, and that’s what we need people to focus on if we want to get through the elective backlog.”

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