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Covid Plan C: The tighter restrictions which could be introduced if Plan B fails


The rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant has prompted a fresh wave of restrictions in England under ‘Plan B’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the new measures, which include mandatory face masks in more settings and use of NHS Covid Pass, will be reviewed “no later than early January”.

This review has been provisionally set for Wednesday, January 5, but Mr Johnson made it clear a review could happen earlier if deemed necessary.

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The hope is that the spread of Omicron will slow down, reducing the likely increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

However, if the measures are not tight enough to trigger this, stricter rules could still be on the cards.

‘Plan C’

It was back in October that murmurings first emerged of a ‘Plan C’ being discussed by Cabinet Office officials, as death rates climbed to the highest level since March.

The Telegraph reported that this was being drawn up as a contingency to succeed Plan B if those restrictions were not sufficient to bring case rates and hospitalisations down.

Shoppers in Broadmead, Bristol, just before Christmas 2020

A Whitehall source was reported to have said: “The focus is very much on measures that can be taken without a major economic impact, so keeping shops, pubs and restaurants open but looking at other ways to reduce the risks.”

Details of Plan C were not made public, but the source suggested it would include mandatory Covid passports for nightclubs, events and venues.

There is already an element of this in Plan B – from Wednesday (December 15), certain places including nightclubs and large event venues will require proof of an NHS Covid pass upon entry, to demonstrate being double-jabbed.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient to gain access, even for those who are not double-jabbed.

Plan B does not seek to shut down socialising and people have been told they can still attend Christmas parties and nativities.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have repeatedly cited the impact on the economy as a key reason not to return to a ‘hard’ lockdown, so it is likely they will still avoid shutting down hospitality settings in Plan C unless the science shows it is absolutely necessary.

Perhaps more likely is a return of some curbs on socialising, such as the rule of six, to reduce contact between households.

Restrictions could look something like those introduced in Tier 2, when households were only allowed to mix outside, except for people within a childcare or support bubble.

However, details of what Plan C might entail are not yet known.

While the Government published details of Plan B in September, stressing that it would only be enacted if the data demands it, no such public document detailing what ‘Plan C’ might look like.

Its guidance at the time stated: “The Government hopes not to have to implement Plan B, but given the uncertainty, it is setting out details now so that the public and businesses know what to expect if further measures become necessary.”

A fresh statement issued by Number 10 yesterday read: “The Government will keep the data under constant review. The regulations set to expire six weeks after implementation, with a review after three weeks.

“Taken together, the Government is hopeful these measures will reduce transmission and slow the spread of the Omicron variant, and will continue to urge those eligible to get their boosters when called.”

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