‘Plan B’ restrictions are already in force in Wales – but Covid cases are still rising

·3-min read
Shoppers in Cardiff - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Shoppers in Cardiff - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Covid cases in Wales are increasing at almost the same speed as those in England despite the country implementing some "Plan B" restrictions.

Under UK government plans to suppress the virus during the winter, "Plan B" would see a return of legally mandated mask-wearing, vaccine passports and working from home.

Wales has adopted some of these measures, including mask-wearing by law in shops, on public transport and in hospitals. Covid passports are mandatory in nightclubs and at large events, meaning people must show evidence that they are fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test result.

But the Welsh Covid case rate increased by 18 per cent in the past week, compared to 22 per cent in England. Wales has the highest case rate across all four UK nations at 624.7 cases per 100,000 – a third higher than England's, which is currently at 447.9 per 100,000.

The death rate is also 50 per cent higher than in England, with 1.6 deaths per 100,000 compared to one per 100,000. Hospital rates are marginally higher in England, where virtually no Covid restrictions remain in place.

Since the July 19 "freedom day" in England, its hospital admissions rates have fluctuated between eight to 10 per 100,000 people. Wales, however, saw a jump throughout September despite its stricter rules, with the current rate at 8.8 per 100,000.

On Thursday, Downing Street said that neither Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, nor Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, had formally requested the activation of "Plan B".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "They are independent and I can't speak for them. If you are asking me if they have formally requested that change to move to 'Plan B', they have not."

Unlike England, Wales did not see a spike in cases in July, which Prof Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said could be driving its rising cases.

"I think to a large extent the spike that we saw in July protected us [England] during the summer," he said. "There’s two ways of getting immune – one is vaccine and the other is infection and recovery."

The extra restrictions in Wales would have "some effect" but, as the virus is becoming endemic, rather than a pandemic, "social distancing measures don't generally have as strong an impact", Prof Hunter said.

"When you do behavioural changes like social distancing, they have an impact that lasts for a little bit but then what generally happens is it [immunity] goes back closer to its equilibrium level," he added.

He said he did not rule out the possibility that "Plan B" restrictions could be needed in England, but that ministers should hold fire for now. "It's entirely plausible that, by the end of next week, we might see cases falling in this country – that's not predicting they will, but it's a possibility," he added.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting