UK

COVID-19: Face masks, vaccine passports, and ‘last resort’ lockdowns in ‘plan B’ for winter

Lockdowns, mandatory face masks, vaccine certificates, and work from home orders could return this winter as part of a “plan B” to deal with the pandemic, the health secretary has announced.

Sajid Javid said if the data shows the NHS is likely to come under “unsustainable pressure” from the COVID-19 pandemic again, the government has prepared a “plan B” for England.

This will include:

• Lockdowns “as a last resort”

• Making face coverings legally mandatory in certain settings

• Asking people to work from home if they can, for a limited period

• Introducing mandatory vaccine certificates for certain settings

• Communicating clearly and urgently the level of risk has increased, so more caution needs to be taken.

Mr Javid told the Commons: “Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it’s one that we need to be ready for just in case.”

The health secretary was announcing the government’s autumn and winter plan for dealing with the COVID-19 plan, which includes booster doses for the first nine groups that were offered vaccines at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

He suggested people meet outdoors if possible during winter and wear a face mask in crowded, enclosed spaces, which was met with jeers by maskless MPs from his own party.

Mr Javid added it is “highly likely” frontline NHS staff and social care settings will be required to have COVID-19 and flu vaccinations to work following an ongoing consultation.

The government will remove some coronavirus powers, including the ability to temporarily close schools and universities.

People who have to self-isolate will continue to receive statutory sick pay.

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