The Irish Times view on new UK Covid-19 strategy: Preparing for Plan B

Britain’s vaccine rollout has slowed and country has fallen behind neighbours in share of its population fully vaccinated

Boris Johnson's plan to keep coronavirus under control in Britain during the winter rests on a rollout of booster vaccine shots to the over-50s starting next week. The programme aims at combating a reported weakening of vaccine immunity after six months, although there is no firm evidence of its likely impact. If coronavirus cases, currently running at about 200,000 a week and among the highest per capita in western Europe, start to overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS) Johnson is ready to move to Plan B. This could see the reintroduction of measures abolished in July, including mask mandates for some indoor settings and a recommendation to work from home.

The British government this week abandoned a plan to introduce coronavirus certification for nightclubs at the end of this month but such vaccine passports could be introduced if the situation gets worse. Johnson’s scientific advisory group Sage wants him to introduce these measures sooner rather than later, warning that daily hospitalisations could rise from under 1,000 today to between 3,000 and 7,000 next month.

As Sage pointed out in documents released this week, other European countries which have retained mask mandates and use vaccine passports have seen their coronavirus case numbers fall.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
9,452,860 7,856,558

Hospital Report

Britain’s vaccine rollout has now slowed down and the country has fallen behind its neighbours in the share of its population fully vaccinated. Johnson’s decision to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions in July has not given the British economy the bounce he hoped for, both because it coincided with a rise in infections and on account of supply chain disruption partly caused by Brexit.


Any move to reintroduce social distancing restrictions will face fierce opposition on the Conservative backbenches and Johnson has made clear that he will avoid them for as long as possible. But by abandoning lighter restrictions such as mask mandates, vaccine passports and working from home, he has left Britain more vulnerable than its neighbours to the very thing he is hoping to avoid, a winter lockdown.