To Plan B or not to Plan B? That is the question.
By Paul Kelly
Perhaps it’s because I am in my late 50s, but these days I find myself preferring to walk from London Waterloo station to the SEC Newgate office in Basinghall Street. This decision has been made easier by the fact that, up until now, the weather has generally been quite pleasant and of course I am getting some decent exercise; although, my Strava records suggest not quite as much as I like to tell people!
I am choosing to walk not because of the pleasure of being close to the Thames, or even the fact that I could always do with being fitter. I simply want to minimise my time on public transport and enclosed places. Yesterday, I broke this self-imposed rule and went with a colleague to meet a client on Berkeley Square, which required a trip on the Central Line. Suffice to say that it realised most of my fears with hardly half the people on the tube wearing face coverings, including three members of the Transport Police who could not have been standing more closely together if they tried. This is despite the fact that Transport for London insists you “must” wear a face covering to travel on the network. Clearly no one is policing that rule; in which case, why have it?
Does this matter? I think so and here is why.
I have been lucky enough to be double jabbed and took my opportunities as soon as they arose. This is in part, because I am married to a primary school teacher, who teaches reception age children and is chronically exposed to every new infection they unwittingly bring in, including Covid-19, as she has next to no practical protection. Consequently, a number of her fellow teachers at her school have gone down with Covid-19. They in turn have passed this on to their partners, two of whom are quite seriously ill, despite having been vaccinated. The recent official statistics suggest that they are not alone and that all the indices are heading in the wrong direction, including 223 deaths recorded on Wednesday alone. On BBC News on Tuesday night, Health Correspondent Hugh Pym suggested that each of the key infection statistics we are now all so familiar with is increasing by roughly 10% week on week.
On Tuesday, Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation demanded the Government implement the so-called Plan B. Amongst other things this would require the wearing of face coverings in public places, because of what he perceived to be a direct threat to the health service over the coming winter. Downing Street responded by saying that: “there is absolutely no plan to introduce Plan B.” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwateng, who for various reasons happened to be the minister touring the studios, was more nuanced saying “not yet, because our approach is working” by which he means keeping to Plan A. This is fundamentally based around delivering the roll-out of the booster jab in order to prevent an unsustainable pressure developing for the NHS during the winter months.
However, the NHS Confederation is not alone in calling for more measures related to Plan B to be taken earlier. Bristol based, Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, has also called for more to be done to limit infections by asking the public to wear face masks and take other precautions. He argues that it is better to take these actions now, rather than when it is too late. Bristol is currently experiencing a huge spike in Covid-19 cases, much of which is attributed to the failure of the Immensa laboratory to diagnose Covid cases from locally taken PCR tests. As a result of these errors, people who were actually infected with the virus lived their lives as if they were not and thereby spread the infection far and wide.
But my recent trip on the underground, coupled with my experience of simply going about ordinary life in London, is making me wonder if Plan B could ever be implemented anyway ; I think it is debatable that the public can ever be sufficiently corralled again should the decision be taken. Firstly, it is not clear what the situation would have to be to get widespread approval to implement it or how it would actually be delivered on the ground. It seems to me that y many members of the community are literally sick of Covid and all the statistics it generates and as a result are highly unlikely to willingly restrict their behaviours once again, should the situation be deemed to require it.
I for one, hope that HMG is right and that the situation will not deteriorate to the point that we all regret not taking up Plan B earlier. But I am not going to bet on it and will therefore carry on walking the streets no matter what the winter weather has in store!