Bringing back Covid curbs under the Government’s Plan B could cost the economy up to £18 billion, Boris Johnson has been warned.
A secret paper was drawn up by the Treasury and Cabinet Office. It concluded that the economy would suffer significant losses if restrictions were removed.
This alarming estimate is based upon the terrible cost of returning to work from home during winter, wearing face masks, and the imposition Covid passports at certain entertainment venues.
But the document, which was leaked yesterday, said the restrictions – which it assumes would stay in place for five months – would make little difference to the spread of the disease.
Bringing back Covid curbs under the Government’s Plan B could cost the economy up to £18 billion, Boris Johnson has been warned in a secret paper leaked yesterday
These projections will increase the pressure on ministers for resistance to Plan B, which Labour and certain health organisations have called to be implemented.
It was the result of weekly Covid cases dropping for the first time since six weeks. This boosts hopes that Plan B won’t be necessary. Recent government data shows that infections have declined after rising steadily since September when children returned from school.
Yesterday, 40,954 cases were reported – against 43,738 last Tuesday and 52,009 on Thursday. This will increase the hope that the recent wave of cases is dying out, as it did following the Euros football tournament.
Hospital admissions are also declining, falling to 916 yesterday. Daily admissions to NHS hospitals had topped 1,000 for three days in a row last week – which officials had previously suggested would be the trigger for Plan B. There are currently 8,693 Covid-insured patients in hospital.
However, deaths are still on the rise, with 263 deaths reported yesterday.
It happened as weekly Covid cases fell for the first time since six weeks. This raised hopes that Plan B won’t be necessary.
Downing Street yesterday reiterated that it had ‘no plans’ to deviate from the current Covid strategy. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Plan B would only be brought in when ‘pressure on the NHS is unsustainable’, which ‘is not the case currently’.
‘If it were to become the case, the Plan B measures would allow venues to remain open and remain trading.
‘We are confident the Plan B measures taken as a package will help curb Covid cases while also striking that important balance of allowing parts of the economy to remain open that will otherwise face severe restrictions or even closure.’
He added: ‘There isn’t anything in the statistics currently to suggest a move to Plan B, but it is too early to draw conclusions.’
The Cabinet Office document worked on the ‘assumption’ that Plan B would have to be in place throughout the winter until the end of March. It concluded that this step would not have any effect on the spread of the virus but would cause a significant economic impact.
The Treasury calculated that moving to Plan B would cost the economy between £11 billion and £18 billion. The main concern is the impact that millions of people switching back to working at home, especially in inner-city areas, will have on businesses.
The Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 Taskforce, meanwhile, produced an analysis on introducing Covid status certification for mass events for the proposed five-month Plan B period.
It found that a Covid certification program would reduce transmission at these events from 40 to 45 percent.
But it warns that, because only 2 to 13 per cent of overall community transmission takes place in venues covered by the scheme, there would be only a ‘moderate impact from reduced community transmission’.
The Cabinet Office document concludes that certification is ‘likely to have a positive impact in reducing transmission, although it is not possible to say accurately by how much’.