The UK Government has been told it must be "absolutely prepared" to trigger its Plan B Covid measures if and when it is needed.
The warning has come from Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, who said the state was still in "a very uncertain phase" of the pandemic. He said the Government will need to be prepared to "move fast" if the situation worsens over the coming weeks and months.
"There is considerable uncertainty into which direction this goes," he said. "It’s wrong to think that the build-up of immunity is an all or nothing — it’s a sort of protective barrier that will reduce the spread of the virus so we need to monitor this carefully over the next few weeks and months."
He added: “You need to absolutely be prepared (for Plan B-reimposing restrictions) and as soon as you start thinking ‘am I, or am I not going to do this? It looks close’ is the time you need to push beyond your natural reluctance to do it and do it’. This is obviously something the government will have to consider carefully but we need to be ready to move fast if that occurs."
So far, the British government has been reluctant to introduce Plan B measures, which includes the mandatory use of face coverings, work from home guidance, and Covid vaccine passports, despite medical experts putting pressure on the authorities to put back the restrictions.
The virus which causes Covid-19 "probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019," a new report from the Director of U.S. National Intelligence reveals.
Northern Ireland may need to re-introduce mass walk-in vaccination centres to speed up the delivery of the Covid booster jab, MLAs were told https://t.co/pu9dUK4lFi— RTÉ News (@rtenews) November 1, 2021
The report, which officials declassified on Friday, says that the US Intelligence Community “remains divided” on whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus (causing Covid-19) emerged through “natural exposure to an animal” or a “laboratory-associated incident”.
The North has a low rollout rate of the Covid booster ‘jag’ at 28 per cent whilst Wales is over 60 per cent.
There may be a need to re-introduce mass walk-in vaccination centres to speed up the delivery of the booster.
Colm Gildernew, Chair of the Stormont Health Committee, said that GP practices were ill prepared and called for an emergency health summit to discuss vaccination and pressures on the health service.
Not all practices are ill-prepared as a caller to BBC’s Talkback testified this week to the positive experience of being vaccinated at a practice at Ballyowen Health Centre in Andersonstown. There may be some under reporting of the level of booster take-up.
The Medical Director of the Northern Trust says that frontline medical staff have a "moral and social responsibility" to be vaccinated against Covid and the public have "a right to know if they have". The Health Minister, however, has said that he is not keen to go down this road.
Meanwhile, there have been calls for mandatory proof of vaccinations in line with the situation south of the border.
Across the North have been 1,114 positive cases and sadly two deaths in the last 24 hours.