We won't impose Plan B despite Jenny Harries' gloomy Omicron comments, Boris says

30 November 2021, 14:28 | Updated: 30 November 2021, 15:26

Boris Johnson said Plan B is not necessary after Dr Jenny Harries suggested we shouldn't mix unnecessarily
Boris Johnson said Plan B is not necessary after Dr Jenny Harries suggested we shouldn't mix unnecessarily. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

We won't impose Plan B in the wake of the Omicron variant, despite senior medic Dr Jenny Harries' gloomy comments, the PM has said.

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Boris Johnson pledged "we're not going to change" advice about stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Earlier, Dr Harries, who heads up the UK Health Security Agency, suggested people could limit their socialising to stop Omicron getting around.

She said people should try to "decrease our social contacts" and avoid mixing "when we don't particularly need to".

Read more: New face mask and travel rules will 'buy us time' against Omicron variant, PM says

Read more: Omicron rules explained: Where to wear face masks and who has to self-isolate

But Mr Johnson said: "I think it's always sensible to be careful. But I think what Jenny is saying there is right, we've been living with a pandemic for a long time, people should continue to do things like make sure they have lots of fresh air, they wash their hands and take normal precautions, I think that's entirely reasonable.

"But we're not going to change the overall guidance. We don't think that's necessary. We don't see anything to suggest that we need to go, for instance, to Plan B.

"But what we do need to do is take particular precautions against Omicron until we've worked out exactly what kind of a threat it may present."

A total of 14 Omicron cases had been detected across the UK by early Tuesday afternoon, with nine detected in Scotland, one in Nottingham, one in Essex and three in London.

A "Plan B" contingency was already said to contain legally mandated face coverings, but the package could also see vaccine passports, working from home requests and, as a last resort, a lockdown. Those three ideas do not appear to be on the table.

Read more: Omicron variant: Three more cases identified in Scotland taking UK total to 14

However, new measures were imposed on Tuesday morning, including compulsory face masks in shops and on public transport.

Arrivals to the UK have to isolate when they get here, and stay in quarantine until they receive a negative PCR test – which has to be taken by the end of their second day in the country.

Anyone who is a contact of an Omicron case must also self-isolate, regardless of their age or vaccination status.

The measures are designed to slow the variant's spread while experts study it further.

Scientists are trying to learn if Omicron will make vaccines less effective, whether it spreads quicker and if it causes more severe disease.

Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, said scientists around the world were concerned about the variant.

Its "number of mutations present, already on first principle, makes us worry about a possible effect on vaccine effectiveness", he told a Downing Street press briefing.

But they still prove the best way of defending from Covid and the Government is looking to offer booster jabs to all adults, provide young people aged 12 to 15 the chance to get their second dose and asking some immunosuppressed people to get a fourth jab.