Covid restrictions will revert if the virus goes "out of control " again this year, the UK Health Secretary said, with a dangerous new variant or the NHS at risk of being overtaken, identified as the time when 'Plan B' could be triggered.
Sajid Javid said he thought another lockdown was unlikely, but admitted it would be "irresponsible " to exclude the order people stay at home in England for the fourth time since the start of the pandemic.
He urged the public to remain vigilant after ministers released their "winter plan," which will rely on vaccines to help keep life as close to normal as possible as Christmas approaches , despite Covid cases and deaths already being at a much higher point than they were around this time last year.
Und In plan A, the emphasis will remain on ensuring that the 10% of people who have not yet received a vaccine receive their first vaccine, by rolling out boosters to those over 50 and clinically vulnerable and offering to immunize children aged 12 to 15 years.
However, if the Covid situation deteriorates, face masks could be made mandatory again on public transport and in shops, vaccine passports could be introduced and people could be asked to work home whenever possible.
Javid said there was not a single trigger point that would lead to the introduction of the plan B, but suggested that it would likely come into effect if a new variant emerged against which vaccines were less effective or the NHS was in danger of being overwhelmed.
" I don't think we're going to have another lockdown, "he told BBC Breakfast. " The vaccines are working and other measures, but I think it would be irresponsible for any Minister of Health in the world to say to where it is 100% excluded.
"Not leastbecause I don't know if it's in the future - next year, the year after, the year after that - there might be some vaccine breakout variant that doesn't not work with the current suite of vaccines. So I think we should always be vigilant. "
Javid later told BBC Radio 4's Today show: " If the situation - and that 's an if - if it gets out of control ... we will, of course, have to act and potentially take further action. I think it's fair that we define what they are and schedule them now so that we have them up our sleeve just in case.
Javid also said the double squeeze from a tough flu season and Covid meant the NHS capacity would be watched very closely.
"A dangerous new variant would of course be a huge and important concern," he told Sky News. "But there could be other issues - for example, what's going on in the NHS is going to be hugely important to me, to the whole country - making sure we don't hit it again the point where the NHS becomes unsustainable.
When asked what level would be unacceptable, Javid cited the level of hospitalization and the pressures on A&E and health services staff.
He also defended Conservative MPs appearing without a mask when they are gathered in the Commons or around the Cabinet table, claiming that their actions were "consistent" with government advice as this only applied to people meeting indoors "when they are with strangers".
" These are not strangers "said Javidabout her colleagues.
The health secretary also criticized musician Nicki Minaj, after his tweets promoting myths about vaccine side effects .
"People who spread misinformation - mere lies - it clearly doesn't help," he said. "I would just like to appeal to anyone in public office, please don't do that." You really hurt people because vaccines save lives and you do the opposite by spreading lies. So that sort of thing, of course, doesn't help. "