Compulsory Covid vaccines for NHS workers would be delayed for six months, under eleventh-hour plans being considered by Boris Johnson to help quell a seismic revolt among Tory MPs.
On Saturday night, just two weeks before the NHS is due to begin sacking staff who have not had a jab, a Whitehall source said that the requirement is likely to be “kicked down the road”, amid demands by Conservative backbenchers for it to be dropped entirely.
The disclosures come ahead of a crucial fortnight for Mr Johnson, as disaffected MPs prepare to submit letters of no confidence if a report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, implicates the Prime Minister in wrongdoing over the alleged illicit parties held in Downing Street despite Covid restrictions imposed by No 10.
One option for Mr Johnson is to call his own Commons vote of no confidence, daring MPs to publicly vote against the Government. A government source admitted that, in the event of a secret ballot triggered by 54 Conservative MPs “a substantial number” of disaffected ministers and ministerial aides would be likely to vote to oust the Prime Minister.
All frontline NHS staff are required to have had two jabs by April 1, but more than 80,000 – six per cent of the workforce – remain unvaccinated.
The plan being considered at senior levels of Government is to overhaul the requirement so that staff would, in theory, be required to have their booster too. The deadline would also be delayed by six months, ostensibly to give workers time to get their third jab. Such a delay is likely to reassure some MPs opposed to the move that it will ultimately not transpire.