Yesterday (14 September), the Government set out its plan for tackling Covid-19 in England over the next six months, which is primarily predicted on a vaccine booster programme targeted at people aged 50 and over, those in care homes, frontline health and social care workers and any vulnerable people over 16.
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that if the data shows the NHS is likely to come under 'unsustainable pressure' from the pandemic again, the Government has prepared a "Plan B" for England that includes the introduction of more restrictive measures.
They include mandatory Covid vaccine certificates (commonly referred to as 'vaccine passports') for nightclubs; crowded indoor settings of 500 or more attendees like music venues; outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people, such as festivals; and any setting with 10,000 or more attendees such as sports and music stadia.
Face coverings would also be legally mandatory in certain settings; and people may be asked to work from home, if they can, for a limited period.
Lockdowns will also be considered 'as a last resort' if Plan B does not work.
The Health Secretary said: "Any responsible Government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it's one that we need to be ready for just in case."
Later yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister added during a Downing Street press briefing that there was no metric for triggering Plan B measures, but that a range of data would need to be considered including the number of patients in hospital, increase in hospital admissions, ratio of cases to hospital admissions, and the trajectory of new cases.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls warned that businesses across the sector are still in a fragile state with significant debts, and any setbacks over the coming months will result in more closures.
She said: “It’s critical for the recovery of the hospitality sector and the wider economy that businesses are allowed to continue to operate in viable conditions throughout this winter.
"Hospitality venues are still in a fragile state with significant debts, making their first steps on the road to recovery and rebuilding broken balance sheets, any setbacks over the coming months will result in more businesses closures.
"The announcement from the Health Secretary, the continued focus on vaccination roll out and boosters, is much welcome, as their success has been critical to protecting our healthcare system while allowing for the reopening of the economy and businesses to trade without restrictions.
“However, we must caution Government that the introduction of those measures that are left in reserve for this winter, would have significant and drastic impacts on the sector."
Nicholls dismissed the use of 'vaccine passports' as logistically unworkable and also questioned their effectiveness.
She add that should they become mandatory it would have a 'devastating effect' on nightclubs and large-scale events.
"These sectors have been hit hardest and have been at the very back of the queue for reopening and such measures would severely undermine their profitability and ability to recover over the winter months.
"Similarly, work from home orders or guidance would have a significant impact on our city and town centres, not only damaged by restrictions and enforced closures but also significantly reduced footfall.”
Earlier this week it was confirmed that the Government would no longer plans to go ahead with vaccine certificates for crowded venues in England later this month, as had originally been expected, but that the measure would be kept 'in reserve' should it be needed in the months ahead.
Following a vote in Holyrood last week, 'vaccine passports' are set to be introduced in Scotland from the beginning of next month.