By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 12 December 2021 • 7:18
Plenty of clearing up to do after Storm Hortense
Credit: Bombers de Palma
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, is pushing for Covid Plan C after the modelling undertaken by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine LSHTM showed that Omicron variant infections were doubling every couple of days. Plan C would see greater restrictions implemented including the use of “pub” passports.
It is understood that Boris Johnson is resisting any calls for tighter restrictions despite the forecasts as he faces a revolt from within his own conservative party over Plan B, which requires face masks to be worn in non-hospitality venues and people to be encouraged work from home. It would also see the reintroduction of 10-day isolation periods for those who come into contact with Covid-19 cases. NHS Covid passes would also be required in some venues, like nightclubs, should the plan be approved on Tuesday.
Gove has been one of the most consistently pro-restrictions cabinet minister throughout the pandemic, however his views are not shared throughout the party. It is thought that up to 65 Tory MPs will vote against the lesser Plan B measures.
Referring to the study Gove said that the “very challenging new information meant that action is absolutely required, and as new data comes in we will consider what action we do require to take in the face of that data.”
That data suggests that a wave of infections is coming which could lead to a peak of more than 2,000 hospital admissions daily, with 175,000 hospital admissions and 24,700 deaths between December 1 this year and April 30 next year. These numbers are the most optimistic projections by the study although they researchers have qualified the results by saying that there remain a number of unknowns including how effective the vaccines are in combatting the new variant. It is these numbers that has resulted in Gove pushing for Covid Plan C.
Early data from South Africa suggests that the new variant is not as serious as the last, which means that the modelling could be way off mark, and that people even those who have not been vaccinated unlikely to get anywhere near as ill as they were this time last year.
According to Dr Davies, one of the scientists involved in the research, the data suggesting Omicron to be less severe was largely “anecdotal”, adding that ‘It’s pretty clear that hospitalisations are rising at almost the same rate as cases. So I don’t think there’s any strong reason to believe that Omicron is substantially less severe.”
Davies is of the view that in South Africa there is a high level of immunity either vaccinated or natural, commenting that “We are not producing these projections to be alarmist or to paint a doomsday scenario, we just think it’s very important for policy-makers to have a clear view of what the evidence shows now.”
Whether Gove leading the push for Covid Plan C or the data modelling makes a difference or not, the government is rolling ahead with its booster jabs with the 30 to 39 age group being offered them from this week.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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