Following the announcement of the government’s Covid-19 autumn and winter 2021 plan on 14 September, here’s everything you need to know about the key changes.
In a Downing Street briefing on 14 September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the warning that coronavirus “is still out there” but vowed his new Covid winter plan “will give us the confidence” to avoid further lockdowns as we head into the colder months.
Currently, the government is reporting more Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospital admissions than this time last year, and had been urged by ministers to set out its plan for managing Covid-19 in England.
But despite rising cases, Johnson said that the UK was in an “incomparably” better position to fight Covid-19 due to the success of the vaccination programme.
As of 9 September, more than 92 million doses of the vaccine had been given across the country. As such, the PM said that the government was “going to keep going” and would be “sticking with our strategy” for the foreseeable future.
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Covid “plan A”
As Sky News reports, “plan A” for the coming months includes a booster jabs campaign which will begin next week, as well as encouraging people to meet outdoors or open windows if inside, wear a face mask in crowded and enclosed places, wash their hands frequently and use the NHS Covid-19 app.
In their published Covid-19 response plan, the government said that it will aim to sustain the progress made and prepare the country for future challenges, while “ensuring the NHS does not come under unsustainable pressure”.
Covid booster jabs
Covid booster vaccinations will be offered to all over-50s and those at greatest risk of the disease as part of the “toolbox” of measures for controlling coronavirus over the autumn and winter following guidance from the government’s vaccine advisers.
Latest Public Health England estimates suggest that 143,600 hospitalisations, 112,300 deaths and 24,702,000 infections had been prevented as a result of the vaccination programme.
Covid “Plan B”
Under the government’s “plan B”, mandatory face masks, vaccine passports and work from home orders could return as restrictions are tightened.
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that contingency plans would only be activated if there was “unsustainable” pressure on the NHS and initial efforts to control the spread of the virus proved ineffective.
Will there be another lockdown?
The PM didn’t rule out another lockdown, though ministers have stressed this would be deployed as a last resort and would require legislation to be passed.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that the UK had not yet faced a winter with the delta variant and said the absolute numbers of people being admitted to hospital with Covid would be one of the factors to consider when deciding whether to introduce restrictions.
Will vaccine passports be required?
The autumn and winter plan has set out for the first time details of how it would implement vaccine passports – a proposal that provoked a furious backlash from Tory MPs back in July.
As The Guardian reports, under the plan, the passports would be applied to all nightclubs; all indoor, crowded settings with 500 or more people such as music venues; all outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people such as festivals; and any venue with 10,000 or more people, such as big sports matches.
The health secretary had previously confirmed plans to introduce Covid passports from October had been ditched, but yesterday the government acknowledged they might need to be implemented at short notice – and encouraged businesses to introduce them voluntarily.