Local leaders react to Covid Plan B announcement

Published Wednesday 8 December 2021 at 20:07

Following the government’s decision to trigger additional Plan B measures, Blackburn with Darwen’s Council Leader and Director of Public Health are urging residents to observe the new rules.

  • From Friday 10 December, mandatory face covering rules are extended to most indoor settings (but will not include hospitality).
  • From Monday 13 December, the guidance is for people to work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace.
  • And from Wednesday, 15 December mandatory Covid passes will be introduced for nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. A Covid pass shows how many Covid vaccinations someone has had, or a recent negative Covid test result.

The government has decided to bring in these elements of its Covid Plan B due to sharply rising rates of Omicron cases.

This new variant is highly transmissible, which means it spreads more easily. UKHSA has already declared that Omicron may be the dominant Coronavirus variant across the UK within weeks.

UKHSA believe that the doubling rate of the Omicron variant is three days – this means that every three days, the number of Covid cases in England will double. Such a rapid rise in cases, and more people needed hospital treatment, could overwhelm local health services and put more people at risk.

The government believes that these Plan B measures should help regions across England to prevent further transmission and take control of the rising rate of Covid infections.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health, commented:

For the last two months or so a number of Directors of Public Health across England, including myself, have been advocating for stricter infection control measures this autumn. We have felt particularly strongly about this since the highly transmissible Omicron variant was identified and UK cases were confirmed.

The Plan B measures announced today, in my view, are necessary and will help to prevent further spread of Covid. They could also suppress transmission of other winter viruses, reducing pressure on our health and social care system, giving the NHS an extra chance to manage demand over the winter and to catch up on waiting lists.

I was surprised however that the government has not reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces. My advice to Blackburn with Darwen residents is to continue to wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces where possible, including cafes, pubs and restaurants. We need to be doing all we can now to retain our freedoms and to keep infections down.

Blackburn with Darwen’s Covid case rates are currently below both the England and North West averages – using data to 2 December, the borough’s case rate is 345.9/100,000.

Coun Mohammed Khan CBE, Leader of the Council, said:

It’s good to see the government take decisive action today, but the timing seems once again too late particularly given the rapidly changing situation with the Omicron variant – the phrase ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’ springs to mind.

We appreciate that the people of Blackburn with Darwen have made huge sacrifices before, and we are now being ask to play our part once again.

We recognise that people’s level of confidence and trust in the government is at a low right now due to the current allegations about a party in Downing Street last Christmas. While utterly deplorable, I don’t want this to deter local residents from doing the right thing now to protect their loves ones and to help us to keep Blackburn with Darwen’s Covid case rates low.

I know that we can all rise to the challenge and look after one another.

The gov.uk website will be updated in the next few days with details of where face coverings must be worn, and more information about the settings at which Covid passes must be shown to gain entry.

Details of how to get a Covid Pass are on the NHS website.

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