What is Plan B for Covid? Government’s contingency plans for winter explained - as Omicron variant cases rise

The government has set out plans to tackle Covid over the winter months in England with Plan A, but what is Covid Plan B?

Covid cases in have been rising in recent days, as well as the new Covid Omicron variant now being identified in various places in the UK.

The Government is currently continuing with Covid Plan A in response to the number of coronavirus infections, but what is the alternative plan for dealing with rising cases, known as Covid Plan B, and when could it be implemented?

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What is Covid Plan A?

The Government has set out plans to tackle Covid over the autumn and winter months in England with Plan A, which will be followed if the number of infections remains manageable and the NHS is not overwhelmed.

Plan A focuses on continuing with the vaccine rollout, including offering it to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, moving forward with the booster jab programme, and encouraging those who have not yet received any doses of the Covid vaccine to receive it.

The plan will also encourage people to get the flu jab, as well as frequent testing for Covid and self-isolation when required.

What is Covid Plan B?

Covid Plan B is the Government’s alternative winter plan for dealing with a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Plan B will be implemented if the health service starts to struggle due to a rise in Covid cases.

Plan B would see the return of measures seen in the UK’s various lockdowns, including making face coverings and vaccine passports mandatory in certain locations, and a return to working from home.

When could Plan B be introduced?

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not confirmed a threshold for triggering Plan B, the plan describes "unsustainable pressure" on the NHS as the trigger.

Government scientific advisers are currently monitoring the number of Covid hospitalisations, any rapid or major changes in deaths or cases, and the overall state of the NHS.

Although Plan B has not yet been triggered, face masks will once again become mandatory in shops and on public transport in England from Tuesday (30 November) in response to the new Covid Omicron variant.

At a Downing Street news conference on Saturday (27 November), the Prime Minister called the new measures temporary and precautionary, and said they would be reviewed in three weeks, just before most schools break up for the Christmas holidays. However, Labour has called for full implementation of Plan B and for improved sick pay to encourage self-isolation.