Last week the Prime Minister set out the government’s plan to manage Covid throughout autumn and winter and the government will aim to sustain this progress through building 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 and pursuing an international approach.
Vaccines will continue to be the 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 also remain free of charge but at a later stage, as the response to the virus changes, this will end, and individuals and businesses will be expected to bear the cost.
The legal obligation to self-isolate for those who have tested positive, and their unvaccinated contacts will continue, and the financial support payment for those self-isolating on certain benefits will continue in its current format until the end of March.
The coming few months could pose renewed challenges and it is difficult to predict the path of the virus so 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.
Plan B would include:
- 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 again if necessary, but a final decision on this would be made at the time, dependent on the latest data – recognising the extra disruption this causes to individuals and businesses.