Mandatory face coverings, Covid passes and working from home part of 'Plan B' if cases surge this winter
A surge in Covid-19 cases this winter could see people in England ordered to wear face masks and show passes to prove their vaccination status.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measures are part of a ‘Plan B’ if efforts to control the spread of coronavirus - including a massive booster vaccination programme - are not effective.
Speaking in Parliament, He said contingency plans will only be activated if there is "unsustainable" pressure on the NHS in England.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson later refused to give specific details on how bad a future wave of Covid-19 must get for the Government to impose ‘Plan B’.
He told a Downing Street press conference the plan has “a number of different shots in the locker”.
“You wouldn’t necessarily play them all at once, far from it, you would want to do things in a graduated way,” he said,
“We’re now in a situation when because so many of the population have some degree of immunity, smaller changes in the way we’re asking people to behave can have a bigger impact.”
As part of the "Plan A" for autumn and winter:
:: A booster vaccination campaign will begin next week for millions of people who received jabs in phase one of the rollout.
:: Mr Javid said it is "highly likely" that frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings will need to have Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in order to be deployed, measures which are currently subject to consultation.
:: People will be encouraged to meet outdoors or open windows if indoors, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings, wash their hands frequently, and use the NHS Covid-19 app.
:: Businesses are urged to consider using the Covid pass to check the vaccination or test status of customers.
Mr Javid told MPs: "The plan shows how we'll give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions."
But he added: "We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS."
Those measures could include:
:: Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with a need to behave more cautiously.
:: Mandatory vaccine-only Covid-pass use in settings including nightclubs; indoor venues with 500 or more attendees likely to be in close proximity to others, such as music concerts; outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people, such as festivals; and any settings with 10,000 or more people, such as sports events.
:: A legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings.
:: Advice to work from home.
Ministers shelved plans to introduce mandatory Covid passes by the end of September, but the possibility of them being used - along with mandatory face masks - risks a backbench revolt from Tory MPs.
The autumn and winter plan states contingency measures "should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence" but "the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees".
It says "more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort".