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The Prime Minister has set out the government’s plan to manage Covid throughout autumn and winter sighting the “phenomenal success” of the vaccination programme as the reason that the data showing the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has weakened significantly. Over autumn and winter, the government will aim to sustain this progress by
- Building our defences through pharmaceutical interventions
- Identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission
- Supporting the NHS and social care
- Advising people on how to protect themselves and others
- Pursuing an international approach
Vaccines will continue to be our first line of defence. All those who were vaccinated during Phase 1 of the vaccine programme (priority groups 1 to 9) will be offered booster jabs from this month – to boost immunity amongst the most vulnerable groups during winter. The Test, Trace and Isolate programme will continue with symptomatic PCR testing continuing throughout the autumn and winter. Lateral flow tests will remain free of charge for now – the government will engage widely on this before any changes are made. The legal obligation to self-isolate for those who have tested positive and their unvaccinated contacts will continue; the financial support payment for those self-isolating on certain benefits will continue in its current format until the end of March. The NHS will have an extra £5.4 billion (recently announced) for the next 6 months alone for the Covid response.
The public will be offered continued guidance on how to protect themselves and each other – including letting fresh air in, wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed place where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, getting tested and self-isolating if required. A tough border policy will remain in place and genomic sequencing capability will be increased to help scientists update our vaccines to defeat new variants. There will be a range of ‘Plan B’ measures kept under review to help control transmission of the virus while minimising economic and social damage including:
- Introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification in certain, riskier settings.
- Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport and shops.
- Communicating clearly and urgently to the public if the risk level increases.
The government could also consider asking people to work from home if necessary, dependent on the latest data. Ministers would only decide to implement these measures if necessary, and if a range of metrics and indicators mean the NHS is at risk of becoming overwhelmed. Plan B recognises the success of our vaccination programme – meaning smaller interventions which are far less disruptive can have a much bigger impact on reducing the spread. The Prime Minister committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS, but stressed his belief that the combined efforts of the public and the vaccination programme mean we can avoid plan B and protect our freedoms in the coming months.
Read the full statement – Prime Minister sets out Autumn / Winter plan to manage Covid