Coronavirus: Plan B needed now but Plan A must also be bolstered, says Labour

Labour backs the introduction of greater coronavirus restrictions immediately, the party’s shadow chancellor has said, but says that any “Plan B” measures should not take focus from the important elements of Plan A.

Rachel Reeves said Labour had already backed the measures being proposed by scientists to limit the spread of coronavirus such as mandatory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops, and staff being encouraged to work from home again.

But she warned that this must not come at the cost of the vaccination drive.

Coronavirus – Fri Oct 22, 2021
Shoppers wearing face masks on Oxford Street, in central London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Labour, as a responsible opposition, have always said that we would follow the science, and we’ve seen today that Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) are saying that some aspects of Plan B, like wearing masks on public transport and in shops and also working from home more flexibly, should be introduced.

“I think the first thing is the Government have got to do more to make Plan A work.

“We think that we should follow the science. If the scientists are saying work from home and masks we should do that.

“So get A working better because the vaccination programme has been stalling. Introduce those parts of Plan B, but there are also things not in A or B that need to be done, like paying statutory sick pay from day one and also better ventilation in public spaces.”

It comes after shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Times Radio on Thursday that the party was in favour of Plan B, only for party leader Sir Keir Starmer to later say the debate over which plan to follow was the “wrong focus”.

Labour Party Conference 2021
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Ashworth had told Times Radio “we are in favour of Plan B… of course the Plan B”, before also stressing the importance of getting the booster vaccination programme right.

But Sir Keir told broadcasters: “I think this question of whether it’s Plan A or Plan B is the wrong focus, the question we need to ask is why is Plan A failing?”

But on Sunday, Ms Reeves confirmed Labour did back moving to Plan B.

Asked directly whether Plan B should be introduced now, she said: “Yes, but let’s not let the Government off the hook with Plan A either.”