Tory MPs were not happy when Sajid Javid unveiled the Covid winter plan in the Commons this afternoon. They’re dissatisfied with the government holding so many powers – such as vaccine passports, further lockdowns and other restrictions – in reserve as part of its Plan B, which will be activated this winter if cases breach what the NHS can cope with. The Health Secretary explained Plan B thus:
‘It is absolutely right that the government have a contingency plan, and the trigger, so to speak, for plan B, as I mentioned in my statement, would be to look carefully at the pressures on the NHS. If at any point we deemed them to be unsustainable – if there was a significant rise in hospitalisations and we thought it was unsustainable – we would look carefully at whether we needed to take any of those plan B measures. That would be informed by the data, and of course we would come to the House at the time and make the appropriate response.’
When Javid covered the measures that Plan B would include – legally-mandating face coverings and introducing vaccine passports – there were a number of angry shouts of dissent from the Tory benches.
But backbenchers were grumpier with ministers’ refusal to drop other measures, particularly testing for people who have been travelling and asymptomatic school children.
Huw Merriman, who is the chair of the Transport Select Committee, asked why ministers weren’t moving from mandatory PCR tests for double-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK to the cheaper lateral flow tests. Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, wanted the government to stop regular testing of children who don’t have any symptoms, arguing that it would be better for their mental health. On both, Javid said a final decision hadn’t yet been made. The fight over Plan B didn’t happen today. But Tory MPs have made clear that it will if necessary.
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