This afternoon, the government has published its plan for tackling covid over the winter months, in a way that does not necessitate further infringements on liberties, which have such a damaging effect on people's physical and mental wellbeing, as well as on the economy.
You can read the plan below or HERE, but the main points are summarised below:
Building our defences through pharmaceutical interventions: vaccines, antivirals and disease modifying therapeutics. Booster vaccines will be offered to all over 50s and those who have underlying medical conditions (groups 1-9). Teenagers aged 12-15 will be offered the option of one dose of a vaccine. Continuing to support the life sciences sector in developing and rolling out treatments for covid 19 to further prevent deaths and limit hospitalisations.
Identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission: Test, Trace and Isolate. It will continue to be a legal requirement for those who test positive for covid 19 to isolate for 10 days. Unvaccinated contacts will also need to isolate. PCR testing for those with symptoms will continue to be available free of charge and daily capacity will continue to increase. Asymptomatic lateral flow tests will continue to be available and will be especially focused on the unvaccinated, those in health, care, education and justice settings.
Supporting the NHS and social care: managing pressures and recovering services. There will be an additional £5.4 billion cash injection to the NHS in England to support the COVID-19 response over the next 6 months. This includes £1 billion to help tackle backlogs in elective procedures caused by COVID-19 and the delivery of routine surgery and treatments for patients. The additional funding brings the Government’s total investment in health services for COVID-19 for 2021-22 to over £34 billion so far, with £2 billion in total for the NHS to tackle the elective backlog. Expanded free flu vaccines programme to include all school children and all over 50s as well as pregnant women and those who are vulnerable.
Advising people on how to protect themselves and others: clear guidance and communications. Continued guidance on how to prevent the spread of covid, by improved ventilation, wearing face coverings in enclosed crowded spaces and continued hygiene advice.
Pursuing an international approach: helping to vaccinate the world and managing risks at the border.
If the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure, the Government has prepared a Plan B for England. The Government hopes not to have to implement Plan B, but given the uncertainty, it is setting out details now so that the public and businesses know what to expect if further measures become necessary.
The Government’s Plan B prioritises measures which can help control transmission of the virus while seeking to minimise economic and social impacts.
Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously. Communications have been effective at highlighting key messages and supporting the public to follow safer behaviours. In a Plan B scenario, the Government would issue clear guidance and communications to the public and businesses, setting out the steps that they should take to manage the increased risks of the virus.
Introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings. At present, the Government continues to encourage the voluntary use of the NHS COVID Pass, (particularly in the types of settings with large indoor gatherings, such as nightclubs), as a tool to help manage risk and to help to prepare for mandatory introduction, if it is required. For now, the NHS COVID Pass will continue to certify individuals based on vaccination, testing or natural immunity status. If Plan B is implemented, at that point the NHS COVID Pass will change to display full vaccination only. Exemptions will continue to apply for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, for those on COVID vaccine clinical trials, and for under 18s.
Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings. If Plan B is implemented, the Government will bring back the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings. The precise settings will be decided at the time.