Amid the latest steep rise in coronavirus infections, opposition parties in parliament are vocally falling behind switching to the government’s ‘Plan B. So far, Boris and co have resisted the plan which includes a return to Working From Home, mandated mask wearing and vaccine passports. It feels a little like history’s repeating itself.

Arguably the government’s refusal to back an earlier ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in autumn 2020 led to larger numbers, the cancellation of Christmas and a miserable spring lockdown this year. But now it turns out the government has a model that suggests that the numbers are about to dip significantly and soon, and that’s great news for hospitality. If it’s true…

Hospitality has been the sector to bear the greatest economic brunt of covid. Restaurants were shut for the majority of a year and even with relatively generous government handouts and support, many went under and all were negatively affected. Even in the aftermath business is tough, with hiring made doubly difficult by the effects of the pandemic and Brexit on hiring. Given the majority of hospitality businesses make 40% of their annual revenue between Halloween and Christmas, and following a washout in 2020, Plan B would essentially spell the end for swathes of the industry.

But, of course, where it’s been necessary the sector has repeatedly stepped up to protect the nation by shuttering, but what if it’s not necessary?

The boffins advising the government seem to think that it won’t be necessary and we’re about to see a sharp and steady decline in covid numbers, which would not only save Christmas but also render Plan B an unnecessary act of economic self-sabotage.

But, of course, where it's been necessary the sector has repeatedly stepped up to protect the nation by shuttering...

The government’s internal numbers suggest that the latest peak was caused by unvaccinated teenagers getting sick en-masse. The combination of a rapid vaccine rollout to over 12s, infection-induced immunity and a natural half term circuit break and the numbers should start to decline.

Added to this the booster rollout to the most vulnerable is underway and should prevent the worst outcomes and the successful vaccine programme has fully vaxxed 80% of the population should all combine to, in the government’s model, not put enough pressure on the NHS to make it collapse, which has always been the justification for previous lockdowns.

The modelling comes from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where Chris Whitty's a professor...

The modelling comes from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where Chris Whitty’s a professor, as well as Imperial College London and the University of Warwick, who all believe that things are about to get much better.

It”s quite a gamble, and history does seem to repeat itself with depressing regularity right now. But there are significant differences to last autumn. Particularly the vaccine rollout. The current UK spike seems to be mirrored across Europe, but even in Germany, which has 10% less vaccines and much of the UK’s Plan B already in place, the death rate looks like it might be higher than the UK’s. With continued high UK vaccine take-up and successful booster rollout (50% of over 50s are already boosted) Plan B may prove unnecessary.

It’s also notable that even the threat of Plan B seems to encourage many to step up their personal efforts to wear masks, Work From Home and socially distance. This must also be factored in.

But if the models are correct then hospitality can expect a bumper Christmas...

But if the models are correct then hospitality can expect a bumper Christmas. We’ve all got a year’s worth of socialising and eating out to catch up on. Let’s, sensibly, make the most of it. The adage ‘you’ll miss it when it’s gone’ has never been more true than 2020 and early 2021, hopefully we’ll never be there again.


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