The UK government has rejected calls for COVID-19 restrictions to be reintroduced, saying that the number of hospital admissions and deaths are much lower than they were at the beginning of the year.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the National Health Service Confederation, which represents the entire health care system in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, urged the government on Oct. 19 to implement the so-called Plan B, a backup strategy that involves measures such as vaccine passports and mandatory face coverings in public places.
“It is time for the government to enact Plan B of its strategy without delay, because without preemptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis,” he said. “Also, health leaders need to understand what a Plan C would entail if these measures are insufficient.”
But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told “BBC Breakfast” on Oct. 20 that the return to normal life had been “very hard-won” and that the government doesn’t “feel that it’s the time for Plan B right now.” He told Sky News that discussions of more lockdowns or restrictions on holidays are “completely unhelpful.”
Despite apparently rising case numbers in the country, he said “the critical thing” is about hospitalizations and deaths.
“Thank God, those figures are much, much lower than they were, certainly, at the beginning of the year,” Kwarteng said.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours, which feeds into the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the prospect of further lockdowns couldn’t be discounted.
But Kwarteng told Sky News that he would “rule out” a further lockdown.
“Throughout this process, there’ve been people saying the lockdown was unnecessary. There have been other people saying we should continue the lockdown,” he said, stating that the UK government had “plotted a path between those two extremes.”
Kwarteng said the UK has “got the fastest-growing economy in the G-7,” because of the government’s success in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines and reopening the economy.
Downing Street said on Oct. 19 that the government had “no plans” to use the contingency measures set out in its strategy to contain the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus during the winter season.
“There are a number of different factors that would play into that decision,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said.
“Largely, it would be required when there was a significant risk of the NHS being overwhelmed. We are not at that point.”
PA contributed to this report.