The option of urging people in England to work from home again is named in the Government’s “Plan B” for countering Covid during the autumn and winter. Modelling of the financial impact of work from home guidance over Christmas and into the middle of January has been conducted.
The move could allow ministers to take a step to reduce the spread of Covid while not impacting the economy significantly – given that some people will be on breaks – or stopping people meeting loved ones.
Decisions by Mr Johnson on work from home guidance would apply in England, but devolved administrations would make a choice on workers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Cabinet split over vaccine passports
A second policy change now being considered more seriously within government is Covid certification, which would see people having to provide proof of a vaccine before entering venues with large crowds.
The issue has been hotly debated all year and seen ministers go back and forth – first investigating it as an option, then ruling it out, then threatening it unless more people are jabbed, then leaving it as a back-up option.
Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting saw the debate break out once again at the top of government, with ministers in briefs linked to the Covid response split on whether vaccine passports domestically should now be adopted to counter omicron.
Half a dozen government sources described the discussions about the topic to The Telegraph. Mr Gove, who played a key role in shaping Covid policy while in the Cabinet Office and now has the Communities brief, was said to be the biggest supporter of the move. Ms Dorries, the recently appointed Culture Secretary – representing many industries that would have to implement vaccine checks if they were brought in – also spoke out in favour of the move.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, and Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, are both cautious about the idea and understood to have made comments to that effect. Mr Shapps expressed concerns about the impact on the transport industry – the same criticism expressed by prominent Tory backbenchers in recent days.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is understood not to have voiced his views. A former chancellor, he has at various points through the pandemic warned about the economic impact of lockdown measures.
Stephen Barclay, who became the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in September having served for years in the Treasury, is now playing a key role in policy planning and is also said to be mindful of the financial impact.
Mr Johnson will ultimately make the decision on whether any new measures will be adopted.