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BoJo Reluctant to Activate COVID Response ‘Plan B’, Is ‘Watching the Numbers Very Carefully’

Talk of a COVID-19 response plan B for the UK, which could presuppose a return to the mandatory wearing of masks and work from home (WFH) guidance, began after the number of daily infections across the nation climbed above 40,000 on 20 October for the eighth day in succession.Despite mounting calls from doctors to activate a coronavirus Plan B strategy in response to a steady surge in infections, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on Thursday that the time was not yet ripe.
“We’re watching the numbers very carefully every day. You’re absolutely right – the number of infections are high. But we’re within the parameters of what the predictions were, what SPI-M and the others said where we would be at this stage given the steps that we’ve taken. So we’re sticking with our plan,” stated Johnson during a visit to Northern Ireland.
Currently, Downing Street is following through with its Plan A in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The approach involves offering booster jabs to an estimated 30 million people and a single vaccine dose to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds. Other guidance measures include wearing face masks in crowded places, recommending ventilation for indoor gatherings and hand-washing.
However, on 20 October the UK registered a surge of infections beyond 40,000 for nine days in succession, triggering calls for prompt activation of Plan B. Official data also showed 115 people had died within 28 days of a positive test. Hospital admissions are currently at close to 1,000 a day.
Nevertheless, Boris Johnson insisted the UK was in an “incomparably better” position currently due to the “huge level of protection” offered by vaccines. As to the jabs, the PM touted the fact that there was “certainly no shortage of supply” as there were “huge quantities of vaccine” in the UK. Earlier, Sajid Javid had also rejected calls from the NHS and the government to immediately trigger its Plan B for Covid-19.

The plan would involve mandatory wearing of masks, the possible introduction of vaccine passports for crowded venues like nightclubs and a return to work from home (WFH) guidance. In response, the British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of being “wilfully negligent”.

COVID Booster Rollout

Speaking on Thursday, Boris Johnson also appealed to all people eligible to receive booster inoculations not to procrastinate, emphasising that “when you get the call, get the jab”. Currently, over-50s and those with underlying health issues are urged to get a jab six months after receiving their second vaccine dose.
“The numbers are high, we can see what’s happening, we can see the increase, now is the time to get those booster jabs and also to vaccinate the 12 to 15-year-olds as well,” the prime minister said.

Weighing in on concerns that the rollout of the COVID-19 booster scheme was sluggish, Johnson echoed the suggestion put forward by ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier to revise the waiting time for booster jabs from six to five months, underscoring that this was an “extremely important point”.The six-month deadline for a third jab was originally imposed by the Government’s advisers on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). If the waiting time were, indeed, to be slashed to five months, then an estimated 9 million more Britons would become eligible for a booster jab.
The Labour Party has also been criticising the speed of the booster jab rollout, insisting that amid surging case numbers, the government would be better advised to wrap up the programme by Christmas rather than March – something that could be achieved by revising the timeline for receiving booster jabs.
In the Commons on Thursday, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, deplored the “complacent attitude” of Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, after he said earlier that pressures facing the National Health Service (NHS) were not yet “unsustainable”.
“Isn’t the truth the vaccination programme is now stalling?.. On current trends we won’t complete boosters until March 2022. Instead of doing 165,000 booster jabs a day, why not set a commitment to do 500,000 jabs a day and get this programme completed by Christmas?” he added.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman also indicated the JCVI might be urged to revisit the advice regarding booster waiting time.
“We want to move as swiftly as possible on boosters…That six-month gap is on JCVI advice currently. Obviously we would expect them to keep that under review and if they were to change the advice we would want to be in a position to move on that,” he said.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman also weighed in on speculations regarding a so-called Plan C coronavirus strategy for the UK being mulled, saying the reports were “not accurate”. “Neither ministers nor officials are working on those proposals,” he added.

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