Home » Keir Starmer Demands No10 Adopts Plan B As Two-Thirds Of Public Back Face Masks And WFH

Keir Starmer Demands No10 Adopts Plan B As Two-Thirds Of Public Back Face Masks And WFH

Sir Keir Starmer today called for No10 to reintroduce compulsory face masks and WFH guidance in response to rising Covid cases amid growing calls for ministers to resort to Plan B — despite Government modelling suggesting the measures are unnecessary.

The Labour leader revealed he was in favour of the measures because it was ‘common sense’ and they protect ‘yourself and everybody else’.

Unlike in Wales and Scotland, people in England have not been encouraged to work from home or required wear face masks indoors since all legal Covid restrictions were lifted in July on ‘Freedom Day’. Yet Wales is still recording more infections per head than England and Scotland suffered the largest outbreak of any home nation this autumn.

Many people continue to work remotely at least part-time. A YouGov poll shows seven in 10 people would support advice to WFH, while 76 per cent were in favour of compulsory face masks in shops and public transport.

And there are signs that voluntary mask-wearing in England has already increased in response to rising cases.

It comes as the Government faces growing pressure to impose ‘Plan B’ restrictions — reserved for if the NHS comes under unsustainable pressure. Under current measures, the Government is focusing on the rollout of booster jabs and vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds in a bid to curb rising cases.

Ministers have taken confidence from unusually optimistic SAGE modelling, which estimated the epidemic will shrink or stay well below pervious waves this winter even without the Government’s Plan B of face masks, vaccine passports and WFH.

Other unpublished models have also shown similar drops, with experts indicating that cases could fall to around 5,000 cases a day during the festive period.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has promised a ‘normal Christmas’ this year as long as over-50s and vulnerable Brits get their booster vaccines. During a round of interviews this morning, he said: ‘The facts right now are we don’t think the data requires us to move to Plan B.

‘For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas – which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas… Let’s just keep playing our part.’

But Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of an influential subcommittee of SAGE, argued enacting ‘Plan B’ now would be a ‘sensible’ safeguard that’s ‘not very disruptive’.

Professor Adam Finn, who advises ministers on Covid jabs, went a step further, claiming compulsory masks and other curbs were needed ‘to get things under control’.

Calls for Plan B come after No10’s modellers estimated daily cases could plummet to just 5,000 next month due to growing natural immunity and booster jabs. These charts show the impact of returning to normal level of social mixing in three months (bottom) versus remaining cautious for a year – and the impact this would have on infections (left), admissions (middle) and deaths (right). The models show cases plummeting by November in both scenarios thanks to natural immunity but rising in spring (bottom) when vaccine protection is expected to wane

Britons have not been told to work from home or required wear face masks since all legal Covid restrictions in England were lifted in July on ‘Freedom Day’. But many people continue to work remotely at least part-time and a YouGov poll last week found seven in 10 people would support advice to work, while 76 per cent were in favour of mandatory face masks in shops and public transport

‘Masks, working from home, I’m in favour of that. That seems to me to be common sense,’ he said today on Good Morning Britain

Asked on GMB this morning whether he still stood by going ‘hard and fast into Plan B’ despite modelling suggesting cases could plummet in the coming weeks, the Labour leader said: ‘Yes, I mean if you go back to July when Freedom Day was announced we said keep masks and keep the flexibility of working from home.

‘They’re small measures and particularly masks — on one level, of course nobody wants to wear a mask but it’s a small measure that protects yourself and everybody else. It’s not much to ask, so those restrictions should be in place.

‘My only frustration in the last few days is there’s been a lot of attention on plan B, which does include those restrictions, they make sense, but I think the real problem is the vaccine booster programme has slowed down so much that we’re not going to get through the boosters until the spring of next year.

‘I think I’m right in saying only 17 per cent of children have been vaccinated. Spain I think is up to 80 per cent.’

He called for pop-up centres to be reinstated so people can get their vaccine easily.

Sir Keir added: ‘I think he [Boris Johnson] has taken his eye off the ball and this was supposed to be the security wall against the virus and the wall is now crumbling.

‘And therefore masks, working from home, I’m in favour of that. That seems to me to be common sense. But actually the real focus has to be on how do we get the vaccine rollout back up to 500,000 a week.’

Hopes were raised further last night that Britain could avoid another winter health crisis as data from Israel shows booster jabs can significantly reduce cases and hospitalisations.

The country, which has led the way in vaccinations, rolled out boosters when immunity from the first two jabs began to wane in the summer. Almost half of its population has now been given a third shot and last week, hospitalisations had halved compared to the previous month.

It comes as a record 325,000 people got their booster jab in a single day, while more than 800,000 people over three days had a third jab as queues again formed at centres across the country

Professor Peter Openshaw (left), a member of an influential subcommittee of SAGE , said enacting ‘Plan B’ now would be a ‘sensible’ safeguard that’s ‘not very disruptive’. Professor Adam Finn (right), who advises ministers on Covid jabs, went a step further, claiming compulsory masks and other curbs were needed ‘to get things under control’

Covid cases should SLUMP by around 85% to just 5,000-a-day by Christmas even WITHOUT Plan B

Covid cases should slump in November by around 85 per cent to just 5,000 per day by Christmas even without Plan B restrictions, according to modelling seen by the Government.

The current rise in cases is mostly being driven by children who are largely unvaccinated and because so many youngsters are getting infected, some SAGE modellers expect infections to run out of steam in soon when they achieve a higher level of natural immunity.

The October half term, which for most schools starts today, is also expected to act like a natural firebreaker and bring down case numbers.

Ministers are understood to be refraining from introducing restrictions including compulsory facemasks, advice to work from home and domestic vaccine passports after seeing projections which show infections declining rapidly within the next few weeks.

One model, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggests that cases will soon peak before falling steeply in the winter months – even without the Government’s Plan B. Other unpublished models have also shown similar drops, with experts indicating that cases could fall to around 5,000 cases a day before Christmas, The Telegraph reported.

SAGE scientist Professor John Edmunds, the chief scientist behind the LSHTM model, told the paper: ‘When we were doing the work about two weeks ago, the Health Secretary had made it very clear that the government was not planning to introduce Plan B in the near future.

‘Our model was projecting that cases would start to decline some time in the autumn. However, the model also suggests that cases may start to climb again in the spring, due to a combination of waning immunity and increased contacts.’

But Professor Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said it would be prudent to go with Plan B now.

He told BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘I don’t think it’s a binary go for Plan B or nothing, it’s very clear that the measures that are in included in Plan B are sensible and not very disruptive

‘It’s not problematic to give clear leadership about the use of face masks, and working at home if you can is also not particularly disruptive for many people.

‘Those measures are likely to lead to a pretty good reduction in the really unacceptable number of cases that we’ve got at the moment.

‘To my mind, the introduction of vaccine passports is also fine – it’s been accepted very easily in most other western European countries.

‘It’s very sensible, if you were going into a crowded indoor space and knew everyone there had been fully vaccinated and perhaps had had a rapid test on the day, you’d feel much more secure about going into that space.’

Professor Openshaw said: ‘What we’re facing at the moment is unacceptable we’ve got roughly one in 55 people infected, which is an astonishingly high rate compared to most other west European countries.

‘This is connected with the lack of clear messaging about sensible measures that we should all be taking in order to reduce the spread of infection.’

His comments came after Professor Finn, a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), made a case for Plan B on Sunday.

Speaking to Sky News, he said that he would ‘like to re-emphasise the fact’ that the vaccine alone might not be enough to protect the NHS this winter.

‘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.’

Several other SAGE-affiliated experts have publicly lobbied for the Government to move to Plan B, warning that it risks sleepwalking into another crisis.

But the Health Secretary voiced optimism today as he said there was nothing in the Covid data to panic about yet.

Asked whether he thinks Christmas is ‘safe’, he told LBC Radio: ‘I think it is as long as we do what we all need to do, everyone’s got a role to play in this.

‘We all want a fantastic Christmas and we can ensure that by getting out there and getting our vaccines.’

Mr Javid said people taking personal precautions should be enough to see the country through winter without restrictions.

He added: ‘It’s getting darker, we can see it’s getting colder, we will spend more time indoors, and so we should think about hand hygiene, about getting tested regularly, especially if you’re going to meet your more vulnerable… perhaps an elderly relative or someone – so if we can do all that, I’m sure that we’re going to have a great Christmas.’

Mr Javid rejected call to move to Plan B now, adding: ‘The facts right now are that we don’t think the data requires us to move to Plan B.

‘I think it’s right and proper that we set out what those contingency measures… what Plan B would look like and the criteria (on) whether we move or not, but, right here and now, it remains the right plan, but again, I couldn’t appeal more strongly to people to play their part in Plan A, and top of the list, as I say, are the vaccines.’

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Javid doubled down on his promise of a ‘normal Christmas’.

‘For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas – which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas – if we want let’s just keep playing our part,’ he said.

Only around 4.5million (green line) out of the 9.3million eligible people (blue line) in England have received the crucial third dose, prompting ministers to urge people to come forward for their inoculations

Hopes were raised last night that Britain could avoid a winter health crisis as data from Israel shows booster jabs can significantly reduce cases and hospitalisations

Proof that boosters can avert a disaster: Data from Israel raises hopes

Hopes were raised last night that Britain could avoid a winter health crisis as data from Israel shows booster jabs can significantly reduce cases and hospitalisations.

The country, which has led the way in vaccinations, rolled out boosters when immunity from the first two jabs began to wane in the summer.

Almost half of its population has now been given a third shot and last week, hospitalisations had halved compared to the previous month.

Cases also dropped to 1,200 – around five times lower than in September.

It will come as welcome news to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is increasing efforts to ramp up the booster programme.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, yesterday revealed that Saturday was the busiest day for Covid booster jabs, with more than 325,000 patients receiving their third dose.

But take-up of booster doses has been slow. Those eligible currently include only the over-50s and those who are immunocompromised.

And patients need to wait for six months after their last dose. But in a bid to speed up the programme, NHS chiefs will now allow eligible patients to book their third jab a month earlier.

The Government is believed to have taken huge confidence from SAGE modelling of the winter crisis which found that the crisis should shrink or at least stay well below previous peaks even without reimposing curbs.

One model, by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found Covid cases should slump in November by around 85 per cent to just 5,000 per day by Christmas.

The current rise in cases is mostly being driven by children who are largely unvaccinated and because so many youngsters are getting infected, some SAGE modellers expect infections to run out of steam in soon when they achieve a higher level of natural immunity.

The October half term, which for most schools starts today, is also expected to act like a natural firebreaker and bring down case numbers.

SAGE scientist Professor John Edmunds, the chief scientist behind the LSHTM model, told the Telegraph: ‘When we were doing the work about two weeks ago, the Health Secretary had made it very clear that the government was not planning to introduce Plan B in the near future.

‘Our model was projecting that cases would start to decline some time in the autumn. However, the model also suggests that cases may start to climb again in the spring, due to a combination of waning immunity and increased contacts.’

It comes as a record 325,000 people got their booster jab in a single day, while more than 800,000 people had a third dose over three days as queues again formed at centres across the country.

The Government is coming under increasing pressure to implement Plan B after daily cases rose beyond 50,000 last week, while hospital admissions increased to more than 1,000.

Much of the current wave is being driven by high case rates in children, with scientists expecting the ‘children’s epidemic’ to run out of steam soon as immunity in youngsters increases, both through infection and vaccination.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated NHS staff are set to be told to get their Covid jabs or lose their jobs under plans being considered by the Government.

Some 100,000 healthcare workers — or seven per cent of NHS employees — are still yet to show up for even their first dose.

Modelling by SAGE predicted that the combination of vaccine-acquired immunity and natural protection would be enough to keep hospital rates below levels seen in the second wave. Even in the most pessimistic scenarios, the group estimated that daily Covid hospital admissions would not rise above 1,500. More optimistic models had them peaking at below 1,000 in winter. The above charts are based on modelling by Warwick University and look at how quickly people go back to pre-pandemic social contacts. It was based on the booster doses given ‘sustained’ immunity

Maternity wards could soon be unable to deliver ‘the care it needs to’ for women giving birth if Covid surge continue, NHS medics warn

Pregnant women could be denied the care they need if Covid cases continue to surge, Britain’s top gynecologist has warned.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists president Edward Morris warned that maternity staff are facing ‘immense pressure’, and that if Covid cases continue to rise, they might be unable to deliver the care women need.

Dr Morris’s warnings come after Covid hospitalisations breached 1,000 for the first time in six weeks on Friday.

Covid infections also jumped 10 per cent from last week to 49,298 infections with deaths rising by a quarter to 180.

However, the Government has insisted it is not the tight time to resort to the ‘Plan B’ winter strategy, with the figures ‘fully in line’ with what was expected.

‘Plan B’ would see measures such as masks, Covid passports, and WFH reintroduced.

Health bosses already called on the Government to enact ‘Plan B’ measures as they warned the NHS is heading for a winter crisis.

Now Dr Morris has become the latest raise the alarm about the impact of rising Covid cases, telling the Guardian that the college was concerned about situation maternity staff could face this winter.

‘The Covid pandemic is far from over and we’re becoming increasingly concerned about the immense pressures facing our maternity staff this winter if the situation continues as it is,’ he said.

But Mr Javid admitted today he was ‘leaning towards’ making the jabs compulsory for all NHS workers. He said those who had failed to get even their first dose were leaving seriously ill patients at risk of catching and dying from the virus.

Care home staff are already required to get the Covid vaccine to work in the sector, with all expected to be jabbed by November 11.

But this has sparked uproar in the care sector which warns many homes will be forced to close because they won’t be able to find enough vaccinated workers.

It is feared a ‘no jab, no job’ policy could exacerbate staffing shortages in the NHS, with thousands of doctors and nurses positions still unfilled.

When asked whether Covid vaccines will be made compulsory for NHS workers, Mr Javid told Sky News: ‘I’m leaning towards doing it.

‘There’s around 100,000 that are not (vaccinated in the NHS) at this point but what we saw with the care sector is that when we announced the policy… then we saw many more people come forward and do the right thing and get vaccinated.

‘That’s what I hope, if we can do the same thing with the NHS, we will see.’

He added: ‘If they haven’t got vaccinated by now then there is an issue about patient safety and that’s something the Government will take very seriously.’

No final decision on the plans has been made, and Mr Javid said it would take ‘some time’ to go through parliament — giving people time to get jabbed.

But he added: ‘I don’t want to put a timeframe on it but it wouldn’t be months and months.’

On Times radio, Mr Javid said: ‘We’ve been very clear and open about this, working with our friends in the NHS, and the reason for this is if you’re working in the NHS, that fantastic work you’re doing every day, you yourself are more susceptible to this virus because you’re just much more likely to come into contact with it.

‘But also the people that you’re looking after are more vulnerable and that’s why they’re in hospital, they’ve got health needs, and this is about protecting them and protecting yourself.’

NHS leaders have a ‘mixed’ view on compulsory vaccines for NHS workers, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said.

She told Times Radio: ‘We’ve spoken to our members about this, and it’s a bit of a mixed picture because most of them agree that in some ways, mandating the vaccine could be quite helpful to make sure that more people get the vaccine.

‘But on the other hand, if some people decide they don’t want the vaccine that could lead to staff recruitment and retention problems and we’re going into this incredibly challenging winter.

‘If we start to lose staff during this time that could be incredibly challenging, so it’s a it’s a real balance.’

Could the Army be the answer? 4,000 troops are on standby to help the NHS cope if it is in danger of becoming overwhelmed this winter

Four thousand troops are on standby to aid the NHS deal with a winter crisis, the Defence Secretary said last night.

Ben Wallace said they are ‘ready to help’ carry out tasks such as administering vaccines, testing for Covid, driving ambulances and providing general support in hospitals.

The revelation is among the surest signs yet that ministers are on ‘a war footing’ ahead of a feared winter crisis in the NHS.

Scientists are increasingly concerned over the impact that coronavirus, flu and other seasonal pressures could have on already stretched hospitals in the weeks ahead.

And it emerged yesterday that ministers in England are considering ‘restructuring’ the NHS waiting list to counter fears that it is becoming overwhelmed.

Many obese patients who are waiting for minor operations but have been told they must first lose weight could be removed from waiting lists.

Last week the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust declared a critical incident, with up to 100 patients waiting to be seen in the emergency department and 25 ambulances waiting outside.

Managers contacted staff asking them to work extra hours to help handle ‘intense pressures’ and families were urged to contact wards if they could provide support to enable someone waiting for home care to leave hospital sooner.

Several Scottish health boards are pleading for further military support to help them cope with soaring demand and to roll out the booster vaccine.

Mr Wallace, speaking in Scotland, said: ‘We’ve got plenty [of armed forces personnel available] and in winter we put on standby thousands of military personnel, mainly because of our experience of floods and things.

‘We have already put on standby something like 4,000-plus people, for the whole of the United Kingdom.’

Pledging that more support will be provided in Scotland if needed, he said: ‘They [the Armed Forces] all belong to the United Kingdom.

Nicola Sturgeon might be SNP but if the people of Scotland need the support of defence, they’ll get it.’

However, he warned that additional support from military personnel cannot be used to let devolved governments ‘off the hook’ for policy failings.

It will only be provided for the ‘next few months’, or however long the pandemic lasts, but should not be expected beyond that.