- Sajid Javid expected to implement Plan B Covid restrictions this afternoon
- Professor Martin Mackie says more needs to be done to reduce indoor mixing
- Professor Christina Pejel says WFH and masks will help reduce infections
Experts warned today that activating Plan B may not be enough to save Christmas and protect the NHS from an oncoming wave of omicrons.
Number 10 is on the verge of succumbing to fears that the healthcare system could be overwhelmed by extreme stress this winter, with a formal announcement to be made today or tomorrow.
Ministers are expected to unveil a comprehensive order to work from home where possible and expand mandatory mask-wearing in all settings.
But scientists are afraid Additional restrictions will not be enough to stop the onslaught of infection.
Professor Martin Mackie, a specialist in European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, previously slammed No 10 for his ‘vague’ decision not to act.
Members of the independent SAGE, a pressure group that has repeatedly called for tougher measures, told MailOnline that a tougher crackdown on indoor mixing may be needed over Christmas.
Under the winter plan set in the autumn, Plan B will include vaccine passports, advice on working from home – rather than a mandate – and mandatory face masks indoors.
Coverings were reimposed on shops and public transport last week, but could be extended to pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other indoor facilities as part of the plan.
Professor Martin McKee (left), an expert in European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MailOnline that further restrictions may be needed to reduce mixing at Christmas, especially indoors, so that omicrons to prevent matters from becoming intolerable. Mathematician Professor Christina Pagel (right) at University College London said working from home and wearing more masks would help stem the wave – but suggested vaccine passports would neither be necessary nor effective
Professor Paul Hunter, a public health expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that Plan B should have been enough to control Delta, but “it will not be anywhere near enough” to curb Omicron, which scientists believe. that it is more permeable.
Omicron Covid could hospitalize 1,000 people a day in the UK by the new year
SAGE has warned ministers that without strict restrictions to prevent the spread of the super-mutant Covid variant, Omicron hospital admissions a day could exceed 1,000 by the end of the year.
In a move that could leapfrog No 10 in activating its winter ‘Plan B’, the expert panel said it is ‘highly likely’ that Omicron will make up the majority of British infections within ‘a few weeks’ and on the NHS Will exert ‘unstable pressure’. ,
Leaked minutes from SAGE’s emergency meeting revealed today that the group also expects several thousand admissions per day to peak in January if it is allowed to spread unchecked.
The core ‘Covid o’ cabinet committee has met this afternoon for crunch talks and Boris Johnson is expected to sign off on plans for a blanket order on work from home where wearing more masks, vaccine passports and close contacts There are strict isolation rules. of infected people today or tomorrow.
The government is under increasing pressure to tighten restrictions, with the highly developed version now in every UK country and almost every region of England, after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 568 today.
Experts warn that thousands of cases are flying under the radar because not all samples are analyzed for variants and Omicron’s is estimated to double every two or three days – since when Delta exploded at the scene. very fast.
Not one of the UK’s confirmed cases has been hospitalized with the virus, but it takes several weeks to become seriously unwell and there are early signs in South Africa that it may cause milder illness than previous variants.
Professor Mackie told MailOnline: ‘We seem to have forgotten the importance of acting quickly and decisively when a new version comes out.
Vaccines have been incredibly important – but we are now faced with a new type that seems to be able to evade immunity to at least some degree.
‘But other things we can do to reduce the mix, especially in crowded indoor spaces, will still work. However, the new version is so permeable that we cannot rule out anything.’
Professor Paul Hunter, a public health expert at the University of East Anglia, argued that Plan B should have been enough to control the delta.
But he warned that ‘it will be nowhere near enough’ to curb Omicron, which scientists believe is more permeable.
Professor Hunter told MailOnline: ‘I suspect that if we had acted earlier, we would have done much more to stop the spread of Omicron for a very long time.’
Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP and medical communications lecturer at the University of Oxford, said the UK should take more measures than Plan B.
Writing on social media, he called on Britons to avoid Christmas parties on top of imminent restrictions to stem the impending wave.
He said: ‘Wear a good mask, work from home, open the windows’ [and get a] The third dose as soon as possible.’
And ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson suggested today that another nationwide shutdown may be needed to tackle the variant.
The government scientist, whose modeling jumped No 10 in the original lockdown last spring, said a return to stay-at-home orders ‘could certainly be possible’ if the mutant strain threatens to overwhelm the NHS.
He said mild measures like WFH “won’t stop it, but it can slow it down” and buy the country precious time, increasing the doubling time to five or six days.
‘It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it actually has a lot of potential to allow us to better characterize and promote this virus…