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Vaccine passports form part of government’s winter Plan B

Vaccine passports will form part of the government’s Plan B for tackling Covid during autumn and winter in England.

Prime minister Boris Johnson warned that the disease “remains a risk” over the coming months as the government unveiled a package of measures designed to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.

Plan A will be based on vaccines and testing and will see millions receive booster jabs.

However, if the NHS comes under “unsustainable pressure”, England will then move to Plan B, which could involve:

– vaccine passports being made mandatory for mass events and other settings
– mandatory face coverings in some places
– the public being urged to act more cautiously
– guidance to work from home

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Johnson said: “I’ve never been in favour of vaccine passports for pubs. I’ve been, I think, pretty clear about that throughout the pandemic.

“I do think that there are settings, as we put it – nightclubs, large music venues and so on, venues with big, closely-packed crowds – where they might be appropriate.

“As we all know, some events have been using them over the summer, very effectively, to get going. I think it would be sensible for a Government not to rule that out.”

He added that he was confident vaccinations could protect the gains made so far, with only limited restrictions to keep the disease in check.

He said he would consider the risks, the state of the disease and pressure on hospitals before deciding whether to go to Plan B.

He added that Plan B consisted of “a number of different shots in the locker”, and that “you wouldn’t necessarily play them all at once, far from it, you would want to do things in a graduated way.”

He said: “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.”

Analysis
by M&IT editor Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

The government is clear in its intention – it wants to avoid bringing back any kind of restrictions in England.

And its plan to do this is also clear – England will be relying almost entirely on the vaccines for protection from the virus over the winter.

However, the uncertainties of the coming months mean the government cannot take restrictions off the table just yet.
Boris Johnson says he doesn’t want vaccine passports, but he has to keep the measure in his back pocket if it means that large venues and events can stay open in the future. The same goes for mandatory face coverings. That’s why he has unveiled a Plan B.

What’s not clear is when we would move to Plan B. How bad do things have to get before we change course? We are told that the trigger to move to Plan B will be “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS – but what this means is not spelt out.

With the possibility of vaccine passports and masks being mandated at short notice this winter, event organisers will be carrying on as they have been for many months now – planning for the worst, and hoping for the best.

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