With the seasons beginning to change, ministers have been setting out what Covid controls in England could look like this autumn and winter.
The autumn and winter plan states that the contingency measures “should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence” but “the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees”.
At a glance: key points
- Plan A for autumn and winter will focus on following through with the vaccine programme, while also carrying out a booster jab campaign to top up the immunity of those already fully inoculated against the virus
- Health workers will be able to book their boosters from September 20, along with care home residents and those in receipt of regular flu jabs, while those over 70 or at high risk will be contacted by their GP soon, the First Minister said
- Other groups – including all adults over 50, those with underlying conditions, adult carers, unpaid and young carers or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed – will be able to book a jab online from October
- People will be encouraged to meet outdoors or open windows if indoors, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings, wash their hands frequently, and use the NHS Covid app
- Businesses will be urged to consider using the Covid pass to check the vaccination or test status of customers
- Social care workers and frontline NHS staff might have to take up the offer of a Covid and flu vaccination in order to continue in their roles, although such measures are subject to consultation
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid has suggested PCR tests for double-jabbed travellers will be scrapped in favour of lateral flow tests, with the move being announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in due course
- While a lockdown is not part of the winter plan, it has not been ruled out by ministers or Downing Street
- There is also a Plan B if the first batch of measures does not prevent rising coronavirus cases during the colder months
What’s been said
Speaking about Plan B, Sajid Javid told MPs: “The plan shows how we’ll give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions.”
But he added: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News a future lockdown would be an “absolutely last resort” in the face of rocketing Covid-19 cases in the coming months, keeping it available as an option for ministers.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, told a Downing Street briefing: “We know that this pandemic is still active, we are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.
“We know this winter could be bumpy at times and we know that winter viruses such as flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are highly likely to make their returns.”
A surge in Covid cases this winter could see people in England ordered to wear face masks and show passes to prove their vaccination status, Sajid Javid has said.
The Health Secretary said the measures are part of a “Plan B” if efforts to control the spread of coronavirus – including a massive booster vaccination programme – are not effective.
Those measures could include:
- Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously
- Introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid-pass use in settings including nightclubs; indoor venues with 500 or more attendees likely to be in close proximity to others, such as music concerts; outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people, such as festivals; and any settings with 10,000 or more people, such as sports events
- A legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings
- Advice to work from home
Ministers shelved plans to introduce mandatory Covid passes by the end of September, but the possibility of them being used – along with mandatory face masks – risks a backbench revolt from Tory MPs.
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