Plan B curbs ‘set to be lifted as even Sajid Javid thinks the worst of the Covid crisis is over’: Passes and WFH guidance set to be eased on January 26 as cases fall by 44 per cent in a week and deaths drop by a tenth (but masks are to stay)
Health Secretary Sajid Javid expects almost all Covid restrictions to be lifted by the end of the month because ‘the data is moving in the right direction’.
Covid passports and work-from-home guidance for England are expected to be lifted on January 26 – with an announcement likely within days.
The legal requirement to wear facemasks in indoor settings such as shops and public transport is likely to remain. ‘Even as one of the most cautious members of the Cabinet on Covid, Sajid thinks we are on our way out of the worst of the crisis,’ said a source.
With the latest wave receding in most areas, modelling presented to scientific advisers on Sage suggests that continued curbs will make little difference to the level of hospital admissions.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is preparing to announce the end of Plan B restrictions after the latest Covid-19 data showed that the Omicron variant is less dangerous than Delta
Covid-19 cases across the UK have fallen by 44 per cent over the past week according to new data
The growing optimism came as:
- 81,713 Covid cases were reported yesterday, down almost a third week-on-week. There were 287 deaths – up 45 per cent on a week ago but down from 398 on Wednesday – while daily Covid-related hospital admissions have plateaued at just under 2,500;
- In an article for The Mail on Sunday, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting today indicates that Labour has softened its approach to restrictions, writing: ‘I don’t want to see our country in lockdown ever again’;
- Three NHS hospital trusts – Morecambe Bay and Blackpool and Great Western in Swindon – have been stood down from ‘critical incident’ status, although others, including in Greater Manchester and Norfolk, remain on high alert;
- The booster campaign is being extended to 16 and 17-year-olds in England with bookings available from tomorrow;
- An investigation by the MoS has found anti-vaxxers are spreading fear and misinformation in an inner-city neighbourhood with England’s lowest Covid vaccine uptake;
- This newspaper can also reveal that a support group offering legal advice to NHS workers who are refusing to get a Covid jab is run by a conspiracy theorist who claims the virus is a hoax;
- Omicron infections have now been detected in Beijing for the first time, after outbreaks of the new variant were recorded across China.
In Britain, work-from-home guidance and Covid passports to access large events have formed the backbone of Plan B, imposed in early December. But Sage has now formally acknowledged what many experts have been saying for weeks, namely that Omicron is much less severe than previous strains of the virus
In Britain, work-from-home guidance and Covid passports to access large events have formed the backbone of Plan B, imposed in early December. But Sage has now formally acknowledged what many experts have been saying for weeks, namely that Omicron is much less severe than previous strains of the virus.
On Friday, Sage published minutes of a meeting on January 7 that said: ‘Early data… indicates that the severity of disease being observed in hospital over the last three weeks is lower than observed in early phases of previous waves, with less need for oxygen, less admission to intensive care, better outcomes, and shorter stays.’
It added: ‘Unlike in previous waves, intensive care units are not likely to be the part of the health system under most pressure in this wave.’
Sage also said that modelling suggested that implementing extra restrictions ‘would now have little effect on the peak’, though it warned that dismantling Plan B restrictions ‘before the peak is passed, could increase the overall impact of this wave on hospitalisations’. Its latest conclusions are in sharp contrast to those it drew shortly before Christmas, when it warned hospitalisations could peak at between 3,000 and 10,000 a day and daily deaths at between 600 and 6,000.
The startling scenarios were based on the flawed assumption that Omicron was as naturally deadly as the previous Covid strain, Delta.
Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency has updated its assessment of Omicron, saying it now has ‘high confidence that the variant causes low severity of disease in adults’.
The first 40,000 people aged 16 and 17, who had their second dose at least three months ago, will tomorrow be able to book their booster. The remainder of the 1.2 million in that age bracket in England will become eligible for booster jabs over the coming weeks.
Mr Javid said: ‘We’re now extending the [booster] programme to 16 and 17-year-olds so they can top-up their immunity this winter to keep themselves and their friends safe.’