The Prime Minister this week held a briefing to set out the government's plan to manage COVID throughout Autumn and Winter.
As part of the plan, the NHS is preparing to offer COVID booster jabs from next week. Around 30 million people, including the over 50s, younger adults will health conditions an frontline health and social care workers, will be offered a third dose.
Other parts of the “Plan A” include encouraging the unvaccinated to have the jab. “Plan B”, Which would be triggered if the NHS comes under unsustainable pressure, could include compulsory face coverings in certain settings, asking people to work from home, and the possible introduction of vaccine passports.
“Five pillars” of Autumn/Winter plan
The government wants to maximise the uptake of the vaccines amongst those that are eligible but have not yet taken up the offer.
They will offer booster doses starting with priority groups one to nine from the first rollout.
They will offer a first dose of vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds.
Test, Trace and Isolate
PCR testing will continue to be available free of charge, as will symptom-free lateral flow tests.
Contact tracing will continue through the NHS test and trace system.
Practical and financial help will be given to all those still required to self-isolate.
Supporting the NHS and social care
The government will give the NHS £5.4bn towards its COVID response over the next six months, including £1bn to tackle the backlog.
There's a consultation going on but the health secretary says it is “highly likely” that front-line NHS staff and those working in wider social care settings will also have to be vaccinated.
Guidance and communication
People will be encouraged to meet outdoors where possible, and try to let in fresh air when meeting indoors and face masks should be worn in crowded areas.
The UK will play its part to lead the global effort to accelerate access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
The UK will maintain strong defences at the border to identify and respond to variants of concern.
On the possibility of COVID passports, which have been criticised by some MPs and businesses, the Prime Minister said it was “just not sensible” to “rule out completely” the option.
He said it “might still make the difference” between keeping businesses open at full capacity or not. But he added that not introducing him at the moment was the “right balance” based on the current data.
The Prime Minister said given the high level of vaccinations and antibodies in the population, smaller changes can now make a bigger difference and “give us the confidence that we don't need to go back to the lockdowns of the past”.