Boris Johnson will soon unveil his plans for dealing with Covid in the coming months. At a news conference, the prime minister will stress the importance of vaccines.
The theme of the prime minister’s message will be learning to live Covid-19. A senior government source told the Daily Telegraph:
‘The vaccines are a wall of defence. The autumn and the winter do offer some uncertainty, but the prime minister is dead set against another lockdown.’
The prime minister’s announcement comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) releases its latest recommendations for the coronavirus vaccines. At present, the JCVI is considering whether to approve third jabs for the most vulnerable people. The UK’s medicine regulator approved the use of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines for third jabs.
Research found that people with severely weakened immune systems would benefit from a third jab. Conditions that cause a severely weakened immune system include blood cancer, advanced HIV and recent organ or stem-cell transplants. The most vulnerable account for less than 1% of the UK population.
Mr Johnson is determined to avoid further national lockdowns. There had been suggestions of a ‘firebreak’ lockdown during the school holidays in October. However, the prime minister’s official spokesman that the reintroduction of lockdown measures ‘would only be reintroduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on our NHS’.
Despite the continued commitment to the vaccines, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, told Andrew Marr on Sunday that the government was scrapping plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and large scale events. The government would have introduced them at the end of this month. Whilst the scheme has been scrapped for the moment, the government will keep it in reserve.
Outside of England, Scotland and Wales are updating the Covid policies and making additional preparations for winter. In Scotland, the head of a union representing ambulance staff wants the army to help with Accidents and Emergencies. Staff are already under immense pressure with Covid cases.
In Wales, people will be able to choose from a wider range of PCR tests. At present, Welsh residents can only use the more expensive NHS PCR tests. The change comes at the same as the introduction of new rules that police private PCR tests.
The government is doubling down on its promise that the UK must learn to live with Covid. When Sajid Javid took over from Matt Hancock in July 2021, the new health secretary stressed that returning to economic normality meant accepting Covid as part of life.
The push for economic stability is driving the vaccine effort. On Monday, September 13, the government confirmed that it is offering coronavirus vaccines to all 12 to 15-year-olds. The move comes at the advice of the UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs). They say that vaccinating would help to reduce the disruption caused by Covid during the academic year.
Ministers will vote to approve the recommendation. However, if the policy is adopted, children will only receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccines will be available in schools. Children will not need parental consent, provided that the child is deemed competent enough to consent to the vaccine.
When he unveils his Winter Covid Plan, the prime minister is also expected to repeal powers in England that are no longer necessary from the Coronavirus Act. These powers allowed Mr Johnson to close schools, shut down sectors of the economy and extend the time limits of urgent warrants. Certain aspects of the Coronavirus Act will remain to protect and support the public.
No one is under any illusion that the winter months will bring new challenges for the fight against Covid-19. Experts are already worried about the challenges the NHS will face during the winter.
Nevertheless, the government is pushing ahead with its goal of returning the UK to normality. It is undoubtedly an ambitious plan. Whilst the vaccines have helped restore some form of normality, the high number of daily cases is cause for concern. Over 8,000 people are currently in hospital with Covid-19.
For that reason, contingency plans are in the works should cases begin to rise, such as mandating masks and the reintroduction of working from home. The hope is that things will not come to this. However, if the Covid situation does spiral, there are at least plans to help stem the flow of cases before the NHS is overwhelmed.
About the Author: James Hingley
James Hingley is a contributing Features Writer with extensive expertise in International Relations, Politics and Culture.
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