Switching to ‘Plan B’ to curb coronavirus could cost the economy up to £18billion this winter, according to internal government documents.

The Treasury and Cabinet Office have produced an estimate of the damage that would result from the return to work from home and the use of face masks.

Playbook leaked the document. It states an ‘assumption’ that the alternative approach, which would also incorporate Covid passports would stay in effect for five months.

Although the scale of the hit is relatively small compared to the £2trillion annual output of UK plc, it underlines why ministers have been unwilling to have a knee-jerk reaction to increasing infection levels.

There are signs that the government is beginning to see some signs of improvement in the caseload.    

Yesterday’s government report showed that 36,657 new infections were reported. This is a quarter less than the number last week, and it was the second consecutive day of a decrease in week-on-week cases. The number of cases had been rising for 18 days before Sunday.

Many experts suggest that the October half-term — which for many schools is this week — will drag infection rates down and act as a miniature ‘firebreaker’.  

Boris' winter plan to fight Covid

Boris Johnson

It comes amid a heated debate about how the epidemic will unfold over the next months and whether mandatory face masks, working from home, and vaccine passports are required (shown left on Boris’ winter plan). Sajid Javid the Health Secretary has promised a normal Christmas’ this holiday.

There were also 38 coronavirus deaths registered yesterday, down around 16 per cent on the toll last Monday. UK-wide hospital data isn’t due until tomorrow. 

Because of technical issues, the promising statistics did not include data for Wales. Wales has an average of 3,200 daily cases and nine deaths per hour. Even with the inclusion Wales’ infection numbers, the trajectory of the epidemic will likely remain the same.

There is an escalating row about how Britain’s epidemic will unfold in the coming months and whether compulsory face masks, working from home and vaccine passports are necessary. 

MailOnline received information from independent scientists indicating that they expect a combination of the vaccine rollout and a rise in natural immunity in children to lead to a’substantial, rapid’ drop in hospitalisations, deaths and cases within weeks.

The topic has also split No10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE. Many key members are publicly pushing for more restrictions to prevent the NHS being overburdened in the future.

But many of the scenarios forecasted by the group’s modelling teams have daily cases plunging over the coming weeks to as low as 5,000, even if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked.  Ministers are now confident that they can reject growing calls to go back to Plan B, despite the unusually optimistic modelling. 

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert from the University of East Anglia said that he supports the modelling and told MailOnline that he expects to see a’substantial fall’ in the epidemic within the next weeks. 

He stated that booster vaccines would boost half the population’s immunity and added that the boosters were working much better than expected.

Dr Raghib Ali, a Cambridge University epidemiologist, said that children are the ones responsible for the recent surge.  

Dr Ali and Professor Hunter don’t believe that cases will drop to 5,000 per hour, due in part to the emergence a new transmissible strain of Delta. 

Other scientists have warned it is impossible to accurately predict how the outbreak will unfold and that Plan B measures — such as WFH guidance and face masks — should be brought back now to control rising infections just in case. 

Professor Martin McKee, a public-health expert based at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said he would be cautious about making Christmas arrangements due to the ‘high’ number of patients and the emergence of the AY.4.2 variant, which appears’more transmissible that Delta’. 

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s (LSHTM), has shown that SAGE cases could fall to 5,000 per person over Christmas if the virus is not spread by younger people who are driving the current high number of cases.

Although 5.2 million boosters have been distributed in England, there has been criticism that the rollout is not progressing fast enough.

In another optimistic sign, data from Israel show booster jabs significantly reducing cases and hospitalisations. 

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE: These charts show the impact of returning to normal level of social mixing in three months (bottom) versus remaining cautious for a year - and the impact this would have on infections (left), admissions (middle) and deaths (right). The models show cases plummeting by November in both scenarios thanks to natural immunity but rising in spring (bottom) when vaccine protection is expected to wane

LONDON SCHOOLS OF HYGIENE & TROPICAL MEDICINE – These charts compare the impact of returning the normal level of social mixing to three months (bottom) and remaining cautious for a year (right). The impact this would have on infections, admissions, and deaths (left), middle and right. The models show cases falling in both scenarios due to natural immunity and rising in spring (bottom), as vaccine protection is expected decrease.

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he expects a 'substantial fall' in cases over the coming weeks, followed by hospitalisations and deaths.

Dr Raghib Ali told MailOnline he also expected Covid measurements to drop as people change their behaviour in response to rising infections, the vaccine programme and the build up of natural immunity

MailOnline spoke with Professor Paul Hunter (left), an University of East Anglia professor of epidemiology. He said he expects to see a’substantial drop’ in cases over coming weeks, which will be followed up by hospitalisations or deaths. And Cambridge University epidemiologist Dr Raghib Ali (right) told MailOnline he also expected Covid measurements to drop as people change their behaviour in response to rising infections, the vaccine programme and the build up of natural immunity