Boris Johnson's Plan B restrictions won't stop soaring Covid cases, experts warn

One expert said Covid vaccine passports “seem entirely pointless” while another said people living in England “can still expect to see rapid growth with Omicron”

Scientists have cast doubt on Boris Johnson's Plan B
Scientists have cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s Plan B

Boris Johnson’s Plan B work from home guidance and vaccine passports will do little to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, some scientists have said.

The government has brought in new measures in a bid to “save Christmas” and avoid a lockdown amid the rapid spread of the new Covid variant.

The use of face masks has also been extended from shops and public transport to include other enclosed spaces such as cinemas and theatres.

Prof Paul Hunter, epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said he was “pessimistic” the strategy would work, while Prof Christina Pagel, a mathematician at University College London, said vaccine passports “seem entirely useless”.

Prof Hunter has said he is “pessimistic” about the impact of Johnson’s Plan B

“I am quite pessimistic that we could control the spread of Omicron at present,” Prof Hunter told MailOnline.

He did feel though that the impact of the high vaccine rollout and the booster dose meant that the Omicron variant could be “managed”.

He added: “I think plan B would be enough to push R below 1.0 for most Delta, though uncertain it would stop AY.4.2 — Delta plus. It would be nowhere near enough to push R for Omicron even close to 1.0. So even with plan B we can still expect to see rapid growth with Omicron.

“I doubt even if we had acted earlier we would have done much to stop spread of Omicron for very long.”

At the same time Prof Christina Pagel, mathematician at University College of London, in particular, felt that vaccine passports would have little impact.

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She pointed to the way that the virus has spread quickly in groups where people have been vaccinated.

In the government, some ministers also have doubts about the prime minister’s Plan B, said Daily Telegraph sources.

The newspaper has reported that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak was worried about the negative impact on the economy as was Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who raised concerns over consumer confidence.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was another who was “uncomfortable” with the plan which had no fixed timescale.

Despite the strengthening of the rules he said Christmas parties and nativities could go ahead, as he set out the move while under increasing pressure over the alleged event in No 10 last December.

Conservative backbenchers openly questioned the government’s “credibility” in being able to enforce the rules while so many believed Downing Street had breached them.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen claimed the government had “lost its marbles”.

He reportedly said: “For a government that claims to follow the science, I think they’ve lost their marbles. The restrictions are incoherent and irrational.”

Conservative former chief whip Mark Harper said: “What I am really concerned about is that it is unquestionably the case that over the last few weeks the government’s credibility, whether it is on Paterson or on the Christmas parties, has taken a hit.

“Why should people at home listening to the Prime Minster and the Secretary of State do things that people working in Number 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned Omicron is spreading “rapidly” and it is possible hospital admissions from the new variant in England could exceed 1,000 per day – and still be increasing – by the end of the year.

“The overall scale of any wave of hospitalisations without interventions is highly uncertain, but the peak could reach several times this level,” the minutes from a meeting held on Tuesday said.

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