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UK News

COVID plan C ‘proposed’, Department of Health science chief reveals

today26/10/2021

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A COVID “plan C” has been proposed, according to a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) science chief.

Last week, health minister Edward Argar said he was not aware of such a plan, which was reported to involve a ban on households mixing.

There has been pressure for the government to move from the current level of COVID controls to “plan B”, which involves working from home and mask-wearing in enclosed spaces.

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Last week: Health Minister dismisses ‘plan C’ rumours

And speaking in front of a parliamentary committee, Professor Lucy Chappell, chief scientific adviser at the DHSC, was asked about the plans.

“[Plan C] has been proposed – the name has been mentioned,” she said.

“It is not being extensively worked up – people have used the phrase.”

The revelation came following a question from Rebecca Long-Bailey – to which Prof Chapelle said that “plan A and plan B and whatever the plan C looks like” are not mutually exclusive.

More on Covid-19

Asked further by the Science and Technology Committee’s chair, Greg Clark, about the matter, Prof Chappell said “at the moment the focus is on plan B”.

Asked if they were aware of preparations beyond plan B, Dr Thomas Waite, the interim deputy chief medical officer at the DHSC said he had not been consulted on the matter of Plan C, and Prof Chapell shook her said and said no.

Sky News has approached the DHSC for comment.

On Thursday last week, Mr Argar was asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley about reports that “plan C” would involve a ban on different households mixing.

The minister said: “Of course as a government, as we’ve done with plan B, we look at alternatives and ways that you might, if you needed to, start easing that pressure [on the NHS] but the specifics that are mooted in it, about limiting household mixing, about going back, is that it isn’t something that’s being actively considered.

“There is no intention to reinvent lockdown, one of the reasons we did it last year is we didn’t have the vaccine and earlier this year it was still being rolled out.

“We also didn’t have these treatments – remdesivir and these treatments we announced yesterday – which prevent people going into hospital, so that’s what’s changed.”

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While the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has been trending upwards in the past days and weeks, some modelling suggests cases could fall next month.

Last week, the R number for England rose to between 1.0 and 1.2 – meaning for every 10 people with the virus, another 10 to 12 people get infected.

Analysis by Mark Thompson, specialist health producer

An acknowledgement from the Department of Health Social Care’s chief adviser that a so-called “plan C” has been proposed to combat any potential rise in COVID-19 cases, is a stark and timely reminder of the high number of hospitalisations and deaths the UK experienced last winter.

Professor Lucy Chappell told the Science and Technology Committee that the proposal “is not being extensively worked up”, but that “people have used the phrase.”

For now, the government is focussing on its roll out of booster vaccines to the elderly and vulnerable, and its first doses to 12-15 year olds over half-term, as it considers whether to implement “plan B” – a return to mandated face coverings and working from home where possible.

But since their rollout in December last year, vaccines have changed the landscape.

Increasing case numbers across England and Wales are not translating into intensive care admissions on scales seen in previous waves and the majority of infections are among younger generations.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard – who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – told the committee: “The vast majority of people now going in are having shorter hospital stays and much milder disease.”

The scientist also put the current number of cases down to the high number of tests being carried out: “If you look across Western Europe, we have about 10 times more tests done each day than some other countries… So I think when we look at this data it’s really important not to sort of bash the UK with a very high case rate.”

The highest admissions to intensive care are currently among the unvaccinated, and there was a stark warning for the long-term dangers to anyone who has chosen not to get a jab: “In the end, the unvaccinated will meet the virus and they will, if they’re not vaccinated, those susceptible will end up in ICU,” warned Sir Pollard.

The NHS is being squeezed, and it’s not just COVID. It’s facing a backlog of patients, a burned out workforce, restricted access to tests and scans, and an increase in long-stay patients caused by an equally struggling social care system.

All of which are playing their part in a service that has seen queues of ambulances in some parts of the country in recent days, unable to admit patients to A&E.

With the AY 4.2 variant – the so-called “Delta Plus” – currently under investigation over concerns it might have a growth advantage over existing strains, and epidemiologists watching case numbers for flu and respiratory viruses closely, it’s prudent for Prof Chappell and her colleagues to discuss not just the current situation but what more could be done if the NHS is pushed to its limits.

Ultimately though, any decision won’t be theirs, the prime minister and his cabinet will need to decide which plans A through C will be able to protect the NHS, protect the economy, and save lives.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today26/10/2021