No need to bring back compulsory face masks yet, say ministers

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Opposition politicians and some health experts yesterday urged the Government to trigger its Plan B contingency measures.

This would involve reintroducing compulsory face coverings on public transport and new guidance to encourage people to work from home where possible.

But Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said on LBC radio: “The public has been very patient in doing what we’ve asked them to do. Plan A has actually opened up people’s lives and that’s so important. Because if we do need to take further measures I’m sure, they’ll have appreciated exactly the freedoms we’ve been able to offer them at this time.

“Plan A is working, as I said, the data right now shows that Plan A is working.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said the official data on the pandemic did not show any need for a change of course.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he said: “The booster rollout should give us the protection we need.

“And there is a Plan B if we need it. The data doesn’t suggest that we need it today, but if that changes then the Government will be ready to act.”

One Whitehall insider said yesterday: “There is no problem with supply of boosters. What we do need to do is up our game on communications. You will be seeing ministers getting out there telling people to get their boosters.”

Officials denied claims that preparations are under way to roll out Plan B – while a Government spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that the data does not yet show that Plan B is necessary. But it is ready should we need to act to avoid a rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves yesterday said of Plan B: “We think the Government should do it…and there are things in neither [Plan A and B], like statutory sick pay and better ventilation, that are also needed.”

Professor Peter Openshaw, of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, urged Britons to take precautions where possible, adding: “Don’t wait necessarily for Government policy.”

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said people need to try to minimise the need for healthcare resources. She told Sky News: “We need everybody to be careful.”

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