People in England are being advised to wear face masks in crowded places and meet outdoors where possible, the prime minister has said, as he set out the government’s plan to tackle the Coronavirus throughout the winter.

Speaking at the Downing Street conference this afternoon, Mr Johnson said work from home advice could return if the Covid-19 situation worsens and face masks could be enforced through law if necessary.

Boris Johnson made his first public Covid-19 briefing since 19 July. 

He added that vaccine passports could be introduced for entry to large events, however said they are not needed currently, despite some venues across England successfully implementing the jab certification through the summer.

The prime minister also refused to rule out any further lockdowns and said the measure would be kept only as a reserve, should the other courses of action not succeed in keeping down coronavirus infections.

Booster vaccines for over 50s and those most at risk are going to be made available and jabs for all over-12s form a big part of the winter plan. The government is also aiming to carry out the UK’s largest-ever flu jab campaign.

Speaking before the prime minister, health secretary Sajid Javid said: “The latest statistics from the ONS show that almost 99% of Covid-19 deaths in the first half of this year were people who had not received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid.

Plan A is for the state we are in now, with Plan B in the back pocket if the situation gets worse. The rules will only apply in England, with Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland deciding what rules to apply.

Under Plan B, the Government will mandate vaccine passports in some venues and the use of mandatory masks in shops and on public transport. People will also be encouraged to work from home and another lockdown is not being ruled out although it is a last resort.

Mr Johnson said: “I want you to cast your mind back exactly a year and think where we were last September as schools went back and the colder months approached.

“Because in one way our position today is actually more challenging – we have higher levels of daily cases, thousands more, but in many other crucial respects the British people, all of us collectively and individually, are incomparably better-placed to fight the disease.”

The prime minister also said the Government could not rule out vaccine passports. He said: “We do not see the need now to proceed, for instance, with mandatory certification.

“It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping business open at full capacity or not.”

Mr Johnson said that “smaller changes can make a bigger difference” to avoid lockdowns with a population with high immunity.

“When you’ve got a large proportion, as we have now, with immunity, then smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence that we don’t have to go back to the lockdowns of the past.”

He added: “In the meantime, we are confident in the vaccines that have made such a difference to our lives.”

Face masks might become mandatory in public spaces again under the Government’s Plan B. Image by Sylwia Bartyzel.

He mentioned high levels of vaccinated people bringing greater protection but warned that those who are not vaccinated are up to nine times more likely to die, depending on their age, than if they have had both jabs.

Mr Johnson said that “we’re going to keep going” with the coronavirus strategy despite the risks.

“The result of this vaccination campaign is we have one of the freest societies and one of the most open economies in Europe. That’s why we’re now sticking with our strategy. In essence, we’re going to keep going.”

The prime minister said ministers are considering “simplifying” the traffic light system for foreign travel but offered no further information on the matter.

He said the Government is also considering what it could do to make “the burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country” but again did not offer up further information on the matter.

He also refused to give specific details on how bad a future wave of Covid-19 would have to get for the Government to impose its Plan B restrictions.