Covid: Boris Johnson's reluctance to adopt Plan B suggests lessons have not been learned from previous delays – Ian Swanson

Around 50,000 people a day in the UK are catching Covid and more than 100 a day are dying of the virus, the highest rates in western Europe.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 4:45 pm

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Yet so far Boris Johnson has been resisting any further restrictions which could bring these figures down. He seems desperate not to resort to his Plan B for tackling the virus.

But Plan B is not a lockdown. It doesn't mean shutting factories, closing shops, restricting restaurants or stopping schools.

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Boris Johnson has been resisting any further measures Photo by Dan Kitwood-WPA Pool/Getty Images

It's just about simple precautions which are already the norm in Scotland – wearing face masks in places like shops and on public transport, working from home where possible and vaccine passports for certain venues.

Scientists have urged the UK government to adopt such measures and warned failure to do so is likely to mean "more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures” later on.

One UK government adviser has said he fears “another lockdown Christmas” unless action is taken soon.

And we have already seen what happens if steps to tackle Covid are delayed.

Professor Devi Sridhar says "waiting and watching" doesn't work with Covid Photo: ITV/Shutterstock

It’s just a fortnight since two House of Commons committees published a report looking at the government’s handling of the pandemic and concluded mistakes had led to “one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced”.

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One of the most glaring findings was that the initial lockdown on March 23, 2020 came too late and the delay meant many more people died.

As Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, put it: “Waiting and watching just doesn't work with Covid.”

Yet the lessons do not appear to have been learned. UK ministers talk and behave as if the pandemic is over and everything is back to normal, even as pressure continues to mount on the NHS and the death toll and case numbers remain stubbornly high.

The past 18 months have seen numerous examples of premature returns to normal life. Eat Out to Help Out in August 2020 was certainly popular but the rush to take advantage of the discount meals was later blamed for a surge of cases and eventually there was another lockdown. Similarly, Boris Johnson and his colleagues strongly urged people to get back to their offices, but the advice later had to be reversed.

And last December, the Prime Minister thought he could bestow a festive five-day lifting of restrictions to allow Christmas get-togethers, but then had to scrap the plan at the last minute.

Everyone is hoping it will be different this year, but it depends on sensible action now – and Plan B is what Boris Johnson might call “oven ready”.

Working from home is not easy for everyone and many will feel they have had enough of it, but if it avoids tougher measures and saves lives then surely it is worth it.

And unless people have a medical condition that means they cannot wear a mask, in which case they are exempt, a requirement to mask up seems reasonable when lives are at stake.

But the Prime Minister appears reluctant to offend libertarians who see such measures as infringements on their liberty.

Try telling that to the friends and relatives of those who are dying from the virus.

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