Daily Mail


As PM warns of masks, jab passports and working from home – and won’t rule out new lockdown...

- By Jason Groves and John Stevens

BORIS Johnson last night paved the way for fresh Covid curbs this winter after scientists warned the virus could cripple the NHS again.

He said compulsory masks, vaccine passports and working from home could all be imposed if the jab programme fails to work.

Mr Johnson claimed the ‘smaller changes’ in a new ‘Plan B’ should mean ‘we don’t need to go back to the lockdowns of the past’. But he refused to rule one out, saying he would do whatever was necessary to ‘prevent the overwhelmi­ng of the NHS’.

Government scientists have urged him to move further and faster even though coronaviru­s cases are falling. A document from the Sage expert committee claims hospitalis­ations could soar to 7,000 a day next month – seven times the figure now and far more than last winter’s peak.

Speaking alongside the PM in Downing Street, Chief Scientist Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘When you make a move, you have to go earlier than you want to and harder than you want to. It is important that measures are early enough and significan­t enough.’

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty also issued a grim assessment, warning winter was on its way – with the health service already under ‘extreme pressure’.

Mr Johnson said the success of the vaccine programme meant Britain was ‘incomparab­ly better placed’ than before to deal with the virus. He said his ‘Plan A’ was to focus on vaccinatio­ns – with top-up jabs for 33million over-50s by Christmas – while encouragin­g cautious behaviour day to

day. But ministers fear that, with more than five million adults in England still unvaccinat­ed, hospitals could still fill up with Covid cases in the coming months.

The threat of new curbs last night dismayed Tory MPs, who urged Mr Johnson to stick to his aim of helping Britain ‘learn to live with Covid’. The warnings came as:

■ Daily Covid infections fell 14 per cent in a week despite the return of schools. Another 26,628 new cases were recorded yesterday with 185 deaths;

■ Professor Whitty became locked in a bizarre dispute with rap star Nicki Minaj after suggesting she should be ‘ashamed’ for spreading a vaccine scare story;

■ Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was ‘highly likely’ that frontline NHS staff would be required to have the Covid jab;

■ He warned people to keep wearing masks and continue meeting up outdoors this autumn to help slow the spread of the virus;

■ Mr Johnson hinted that fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to get a costly PCR test when they return;

■ Businesses were warned they may get just a week’s notice of the introducti­on of mandatory vaccine passports for nightclubs, concert halls and stadiums;

■ Employment rates jumped back to prepandemi­c levels.

Mr Javid was heckled by some MPs on his own side as he unveiled the threat of new Covid curbs in the House of Commons.

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid

Recovery Group of Tory MPs, warned Plan B would ‘cause significan­t disruption to businesses and costs to the economy’.

He added: ‘The Government had an opportunit­y to set out how we can live with an endemic virus that will be with us for ever. Instead, we got a slippery slope towards more restrictio­ns that many fear is already a foregone conclusion.’

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said Covid scientists appeared to be ‘back in charge’ of the Government’s agenda.

Warnings of another clampdown came in the 32-page ‘Autumn and Winter Covid Plan’ published yesterday.

The official document stressed the huge benefits of virus vaccinatio­ns, reinforced by a massive booster programme for adults and jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Sir Patrick said it was clear that immunity was ‘waning’ and that top-ups would have a ‘very big knock-on effect’ on curbing infection and hospitalis­ation rates.

Plan A included advising people on how to limit the risk of spreading the virus in their day-to-day lives. And mandatory isolation will remain in place for those who test positive. Mass testing will also continue.

Downing Street declined to say when Plan B might be introduced. But scientists have previously suggested that the NHS would begin to struggle if total hospital cases top 10,000. Latest figures yesterday showed the total is 8,413 after dropping below 1,000 in May.

Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick both highlighte­d hospitalis­ation numbers as a critical factor.

The plan also makes the case for ordering millions of office staff to work from home again on a ‘temporary’ basis, although Government sources said this would only follow a review of the impact on the economy. The document also left open the door to another potential lockdown.

Kate Nicholls, of the trade body UK Hospitalit­y, welcomed the initial focus on vaccinatio­ns, but warned that ‘those measures that are left in reserve for this winter, would have significan­t and drastic impacts on the sector’.

She said vaccine passports were ‘logistical­ly unworkable’ and would have a ‘devastatin­g effect’ on sectors that had already been hit hardest by the pandemic.

The CBI gave a cautious welcome to the Plan A proposals, saying: ‘Business is clear that the Government must leave no stone unturned in its efforts to keep the economy open.’

THE Tories risk losing their reputation as the party of law and order if eco-maniacs continue to wreak havoc on society.

The M25 blockade by an anarchist rabble demanding better home insulation will have horrified law-abiding voters. This infantile caper was no peaceful protest. Obstructin­g a public highway is a crime.

Why then did the police humour these self-appointed climate messiahs for hours before finally making arrests?

Answer: Senior officers are keener to virtue-signal their obsession for achingly trendy causes than tackling offences.

Priti Patel must remind chief constables of their obligation­s. Or the electorate may conclude the Conservati­ves can’t be trusted to crack down on crime.

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