Europe

Covid Plan B’s staggering cost to UK economy laid bare

House of Commons erupts with laughter over Covid Plan B leak

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In action, Plan B would see some of the restrictions that made up previous lockdowns return during the winter. These wouldn’t throw the country back to lockdown conditions but reintroduce some limited measures. The prospect has reignited the debate of restriction vs economy, however, and documents appear to reveal the potential financial blow.

In its present configuration, ministers would combat rising case rates by introducing mask mandates, work from home guidance and Covid certification.

Together, according to documents leaked to Politico, this could cost the UK between £11billion and £18billion.

Much of the cost comes from the potential longevity of the plans, which could last for several months.

The Prime Minister asked the Treasury’s Covid Taskforce to evaluate what would happen if the UK needed these measures to weather the entire winter season.

The analysis assumed the measures would last until March 2022.

The office added they would cost up to £800 million per week in total.

Vaccine passports and work from home sit at the centre of costs.

The Treasury has focussed on the potential drain caused by the switch to working from home.

With workplaces open and hospitality back to where it was pre-pandemic, many businesses in the industry have recuperated lockdown losses.

Renewing the work from home guidance would, the Treasury fears, pull spending from businesses in city centres that rely on office workforces.

And it would do so with little benefit, as the policy has little effect on overall transmission.

The Cabinet Office Taskforce produced a separate report centred on what could happen if the Government mandated them.

Their analysis branded the policy – which other countries, Scotland among them, have implemented – “high impact”.

Aside from the potential economic drain, they could cause “wider impacts” and exacerbate the supply chain crisis.

Although the Prime Minister’s decision to commission the report suggests he is seriously considering introducing Plan B, he has not publicly motioned in this direction.

A Government spokesperson announced the proposals outlined in the document “do not reflect Government policy”

They said: “We knew the coming months would be challenging, which is why we set out our Autumn and Winter plan last month.

“Plan B ensures we are ready, should we need to act, to avoid an unsustainable rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

“The presumptions put forward here do not reflect Government policy.

“The data does not currently show that Plan B is necessary – and there is no planned five month timeline.”

The Government is still intent on delivering Plan A, which leans entirely on vaccine uptake, now nearly 80 percent in the UK for first doses.

According to recent evidence, ministers’ decisions could pay off, with experts predicting an incoming “endemic equilibrium”.

A report penned by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) suggested cases and deaths would peak in November.

After then, even without Plan B, they would start to fall rapidly, allowing the Government to claim victory despite resisting recent calls from health officials.

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