Minutes from a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting on October 14 show the body discussed potential Plan B winter Covid restrictions, and the impact measures could have on Covid spread.
Calls for Plan B measures, such as working from home and mandatory face masks in some settings, have increased in recent weeks as Covid infection rates increase across the country.
Some experts have called on Boris Johnson to implement Plan B measures soon to avoid the NHS facing critical levels of patients this winter. Currently, the government is relying on the vaccine rollout to curb the spread of the disease.
Sage advised the “reintroduction of working-from-home guidance is likely to have the greatest individual impact on transmission out of the proposed measures.”
But overall, Sage advisors gave a cautiously optimistic forecast.
They said in the minutes that a further huge spike in infections as seen in January was “increasingly unlikely”, as experts predicted a series of broader, flatter peaks as the virus continues to spread.
However, in its meeting dated October 14, Sage warned that measures from the Government’s Plan B would have greatest effect if brought in in unison and earlier on rather than later.
Scientists are in favour of a relatively light-touch approach, implemented earlier to make a difference, with Sage saying: “In the event of increasing case rates, earlier intervention would reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures.”
Mr Johnson said his winter plan had “always predicted that cases would rise around about now” and that the “high levels of infections” are not outside the anticipated parameters.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to a vaccine centre in west London, the Prime Minister urged the public to get their booster jabs as he called for uptake to be “ramped up even further”.
But in a move which could reflect the pressures expected to hit the NHS this winter, the health service announced that Dr Emily Lawson would be returning to lead the Covid vaccination programme.
Dr Lawson led the successful first rollout and was then seconded to head up No 10’s Delivery Unit, which is tasked with ensuring the Government delivers on its priorities.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “It’s great news that Emily has agreed to return to lead the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme as our response to the pandemic enters another crucial phase.
“Vaccines are a key line of defence against Covid and Emily’s wealth of experience, skill and her knowledge of the programme will be a huge asset as we prepare for winter.”