Leaked Whitehall Doc Reveals UK Gov't ‘Canvassing Opinion’ on Swift Activation of COVID-19 Plan B
11:00 GMT 24.10.2021 (Updated: 15:16 GMT 28.05.2023)
© Sputnik / Vladimir PesnyaWhitehall and the clock tower of the Westminster Palace with the Big Ben bell as seen from Trafalgar Square
© Sputnik / Vladimir Pesnya/
In September the UK government set out its strategy to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in autumn and winter 2021, revealing the details of a Plan A, based on a vaccine rollout and the preferred option if cases remained manageable, and a Plan B if the situation deteriorated.
A leaked Whitehall document has revealed that the UK government is gearing up to swiftly activate a more restrictive coronavirus response Plan B strategy if the situation with case rises calls for it, reported The Sun.
Marked Official Sensitive, the cited e-mail was reportedly sent from the UK Health Security Agency to local authorities, town hall and public health leaders, stating:
“I have been asked to canvas opinion on the level of support for immediate roll out of the Winter Plan - Plan B.”
The “menu of measures” that would come with the proposed strategy involves introducing vaccine passports in nightclubs, pubs and other crowded indoor settings, as well as outdoor venues accommodating over 10,000 attendees. The considered plan would also presuppose “legally mandating face coverings in certain settings” and guidance to work from home (WFH).
© AP Photo / Frank AugsteinA London Underground worker, right, hands over a free face masks to a passenger at London's Baker Street station, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Wearing a face mask will become compulsory on the London TFL public transport service starting from June 15, 2020, as a safety measure to contrast the COVID-19 pandemic.
A London Underground worker, right, hands over a free face masks to a passenger at London's Baker Street station, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Wearing a face mask will become compulsory on the London TFL public transport service starting from June 15, 2020, as a safety measure to contrast the COVID-19 pandemic.
© AP Photo / Frank Augstein
It was added in the cited memo that if the plan were activated, the public would have to be informed “clearly and urgently” of a heightened COVID-19 risk level. A need to “behave more cautiously” would also be impressed upon people, added the report.
The response garnered on the issue was purportedly to be funneled to the Cabinet Office.
Plan B Controversy
In response to the report, Tory MP Mark Harper, who serves as chair of the COVID Recovery Group, was cited as saying:
“This leaked memo directly contradicts the assurances given by Ministers only a few days ago. Our vaccines work, Covid will be with us forever and we must start to live with this virus as Ministers have suggested.”
He voiced concern that if the economy were to be shut down to manage pressures on the NHS, such restrictions could become a seasonal event in the future.
The speculations over a potential move to activate the plan came amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the nation. On 21 October there were more than 50,000 infections recorded in the UK in a single day — the highest daily count since mid-July.
There were also 115 deaths registered, with a daily death toll of 223 people on 19 October — the highest since March.
Plan A has been in place after the country celebrated so-called “Freedom Day” on 19 July, witnessing a near-full lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. The strategy is based on encouraging COVID-19 boosters after a successful jab campaign earlier and administering of flu inoculations.
Ministers had published a potential coronavirus “Plan B” in September that would be activated if the pandemic spiralled out of control, threatening to overwhelm the National Health service (NHS).
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier that the current high levels of coronavirus cases were not outside the “parameters” of predictions for the autumn and winter.
On 20 October Health Secretary Sajid Javid emphasised at a coronavirus press conference that ministers would not be hurrying to reintroduce mandatory face masks and work from home (WFH) guidance “at this point”.
UK Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said on the same day on LBC that he could “categorically rule out” lockdowns.
"We’ve worked really hard to get to the point that we could actually open up the economy,” said Kwarteng.
The Labour Party's Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth waded into the debate on the potentially looming Plan B, saying:
“With a mounting tide of Covid sickness and hospitals under crushing pressure it’s no surprise Tory ministers are secretly plotting to bring back masks and introduce vaccine passports. But whether it’s plan A, B or C to get on top of this deadly disease Sajid Javid needs to urgently fix the stuttering jabs campaign.”
A Downing Street spokesperson stated that data on infections was being closely monitored, adding:
“Prime Minister has been clear that it does not yet show that Plan B is necessary. 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. But it is ready should we need to act to avoid a rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”