Campaign Response: Omicron Variant (Plan B & COVID Passports)

I have been contacted by constituents about the Omicron Variant, Plan B and COVID Passports.

As the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, I have included below my response:

Further to the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on the Government’s COVID-19 response, I wanted to update you on the measures introduced to control the spread of Omicron.

As soon as the Government learned of the new variant it acted, introducing targeted and proportionate measures as a precaution, while scientists discovered more. Every day we are learning more and more about this variant, however, we still have more to learn about its severity, exact rate of transmission, and the full effectiveness of the vaccines against it. What has become clear is that the Omicron variant is growing much faster than the Delta variant, and it is spreading rapidly all around the world.

Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron in the UK could be between two and three days. While there are some limits to what we can learn from South Africa, not least due to different rates of vaccination and previous infection, we are seeing growth in cases in the UK that mirrors the rapid increases seen in South Africa. Due to the hospitalisation rates in South Africa roughly doubling in a week, we cannot assume that Omicron is less severe than previous variants.

The risk of a huge rise in hospitalisations, and ultimately in deaths, is why the Government has made the decision to move to Plan B in England. This plan was set out to the House in September and has been put in place to enable us to slow the spread of the virus, increase booster vaccinations, especially in older and more vulnerable people, and understand the answers to the key outstanding questions concerning the Omicron variant.


The Prime Minister’s recent announcement included the reintroduction of work from home guidance, further extending the legal requirement to wear a face covering, and the mandatory use of the NHS COVID Pass, or a negative test, in specific settings such as nightclubs and where large crowds gather. This will include unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 attendees or more and any event with more than 10,000 attendees. It is important to note that this is not a "mandatory vaccination passport" as some media reports have suggested. A negative lateral flow test result can also be used.

I know that some constituents strongly oppose the introduction of such measures; I too have repeatedly expressed my concerns and reservations to ministerial colleagues about the use of any measures. As I have said before, with many areas of legislation there are few simple choices. It was a wise precaution to keep these reserve options as we face a rise in infections. The scientific modelling of how such a rise would increase hospitalisations and deaths were laid out by the Chief Medical Officer on Wednesday 8 December.

I welcome that limitations have been put in place, and that many businesses will not require their use. I will continue to discuss their use with ministerial colleagues and heavily scrutinise their efficacy when Plan B restrictions are reviewed in January 2022.

Businesses will have a week’s notice, before Plan B is introduced. This will help to keep events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise the risk to others.

Further information regarding the NHS COVID Pass can be found via the link below:


From Tuesday 14 December, the Government introduced daily testing for close contacts instead of isolation, so we keep people safe while minimising the disruption to daily life. Ministers will continue to take every step to ensure our NHS is ready for the challenges ahead. I would reiterate the point made by the Prime Minister, which is that the single biggest thing each and every one of us can do, is to get our vaccinations, and crucially to get that booster as soon as our turn arrives – I received mine on Saturday 12 December..

This is an important point; the gap between second dose and booster has been reduced to a minimum of just three months. Our heroic NHS staff, and volunteers, have already provided almost 21 million booster vaccinations, however, this must continue. Scientists are confident that our immune response will be stronger if we have been boosted. I would strongly encourage those who are eligible to get their flu jab too. This means that we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones this winter and reduce the pressures on our NHS.


As we learn more about this variant, we will be guided by the hard medical data around four key criteria: the efficacy of our vaccines and boosters, the severity of Omicron, the speed of its spread, and the rate of hospitalisations. Ministers, scientists, and medical professionals will continue to monitor the data and keep it under review.

We continue to face challenges brought about by COVID-19, and we must be humble in the face of this virus. However, I very much appreciate the arguments which say that we cannot halt society or bring in draconian measures each time a new variant emerges. I agree, and I am pleased that the Government has not done this. It may not surprise you to know that I did not welcome the introduction of Plan B with open arms, but if it becomes clear that booster vaccinations can hold this variant and we have boosted enough people to keep Omicron in balance then I am confident we will be able to move forward as before.