Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a national address from No.10 this afternoon to sell his England winter Covid plan to the public.
Earlier in the day, the Government announced its Plan A and Plan B to combat the pandemic over the coming months.
Plan A is for the state we are in now, while Plan B will be brought in if the situation gets worse.
The rules will apply in England, with the devolved nations deciding what rules to apply.
Under Plan A, the Government will remove more of its powers but retain some it deems “essential” for responding to the pandemic.
The worst measures will be kept in reserve, including mandating vaccine passports in some venues and forcing face masks to be mandatory by law once again in shops and on public transport.
Also under Plan B, people would be encouraged to work from home. And a lockdown is not ruled out – though it is an absolute last resort.
Daily cases higher than in 2020
Mr Johnson has warned that higher levels of coronavirus cases mean that “in one way our position today is actually more challenging” than last September.
The PM said: “I want you to cast your mind back exactly a year and think where we were last September as schools went back and the colder months approached.
“Because in one way our position today is actually more challenging – we have higher levels of daily cases, thousands more, but in many other crucial respects the British people, all of us collectively and individually, are incomparably better-placed to fight the disease.”
Mandatory vaccine passports not off the table
Mr Johnson stressed that he could not “rule out completely” the possibility of imposing mandatory vaccine passports.
“We do not see the need now to proceed, for instance, with mandatory certification.
“It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping business open at full capacity or not.”
Vaccine ‘making a difference’
Mr johnson said that “smaller changes can make a bigger difference” to avoid lockdowns with a population with high immunity.
“When you’ve got a large proportion, as we have now, with immunity, then smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence that we don’t have to go back to the lockdowns of the past.”
He added: “In the meantime, we are confident in the vaccines that have made such a difference to our lives.”
He cited high levels of people being vaccinated as bringing greater protection but warned those who are not vaccinated are up to nine times more likely to die, depending on their age, than if they have had both jabs.
Mr Johnson said that “we’re going to keep going” with the coronavirus strategy despite the risks.
“The result of this vaccination campaign is we have one of the most free societies and one of the most open economies in Europe.
“That’s why we’re now sticking with our strategy. In essence, we’re going to keep going.”
Traffic light system in doubt
The PM said ministers are considering “simplifying” the traffic light system for foreign travel.
He said the Government is also considering what it could do to make “the burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country”, but did not offer further details.
When to break open Plan B?
Mr Johnson refused to give specific details on how bad a future wave of Covid-19 would have to get for the Government to impose its “plan B” restrictions.
He said the government’s plan B 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.”
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