politics

Covid Plan B could cost £800million a week, leaked government document claims


Leaked assessments lay bare the huge cost to the economy – and rather helpfully explain why Boris Johnson is refusing to implement his Covid-19 back-up plan for England

Boris Johnson has been refusing to implement his Plan B for Covid
Boris Johnson has been refusing to implement his Plan B for Covid

England’s ‘Plan B’ for Covid could cost more than £800million a week, a leaked government document has claimed.

There are already fears the plan to make people wear masks in some settings, prove they are vaccinated at nightclubs and big events, and perhaps work from home a little more will not be enough to stem rising infections.

But even that level of restrictions would come with an eye-watering price tag for business, according to the newly-emerged document.

It claims the UK government’s Plan B for England would cost the economy between £11bn and £18bn if it lasted between around now and March 2022.

It says the worst effect on firms will come from millions of people returning to working from home, which would deprive city centre businesses of trade.

The analysis was drawn up by the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 task force and the Treasury, and handed to London Playbook. It does not appear to factor in the costs to the NHS of more people being very sick with Covid.

The government did not deny the document was real, but a spokesman said: “The presumptions put forward here are untrue, and do not reflect government policy.

“The data does not currently show that Plan B is necessary – and there is no planned five month timeline.”

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Brits are so far managing not to be under serious restrictions, because of the vaccine



But the cost could explain why Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to impose Plan B despite pleas from experts.

The document claimed vaccine passports at clubs, conferences and other crowded venues would reduce transmission at them by 40-45%.

But because those events are only a fraction of overall transmission, vaccine passports would only cut overall transmission in the community by 1-5%.



A separate, 13-page analysis seen by the Telegraph claims vaccine passports could cost those businesses £345m a month or £2.1bn over six months.

It claims 5,700 extra stewards would be needed for large venues of over 10,000 people – including 110 at a single Premier League club, costing £15,000 per match.

Other leaked assessments have suggested the government is hoping the recent rise in cases will level off as immunity rises.








Prime Minister Boris Johnson
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Image:

Getty Images)



Case rises have slowed in recent days and are now up 2.2% on a week ago, a lower figure than was seen recently.

But as hospitalisations lag behind case rises, some 6,730 patients entered UK hospitals with Covid in the last week – up 20.1% on the week before.

A government spokesperson said: “We knew the coming months would be challenging, which is why we set out our Autumn and Winter plan last month.

“Plan B ensures we are ready, should we need to act, to avoid an unsustainable rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

It’s understood data is being kept under regular review.




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Ministers axed the legal requirement to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces in July. Instead they are a ‘condition of carriage’ on some transport – a weaker set of rules.

But compulsory masks for places like shops and public transport – and fines from police – could return in Plan B.

In Plan B the government would also “issue clear guidance and communications to the public and businesses, setting out the steps that they should take to manage the increased risks of the virus.”

And the government “would consider asking people to work from home if they can, for a limited period”.

Meanwhile certain venues would be forced to ask punters for an NHS Covid pass – and only the vaccine part would be valid. People would no longer be able to show a negative test.




A consultation is under way about which venues would have to roll out the scheme.

But in draft plans they include all nightclubs, and other venues open after 1am with alcohol, music, and dancing.

They also include close-packed indoor settings of 500 or more; crowded outdoor settings of 4,000 or more; and any setting of 10,000 or more.

A Government spokesperson said: “We knew the coming months would be challenging, which is why we set out our Autumn and Winter plan last month.

“Plan B ensures we are ready, should we need to act, to avoid an unsustainable rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”


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