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13th Sep 2021

Covid winter plan: Everything you need to know

Charlie Herbert

Covid winter plan

Cases are rising across the country and winter is coming. So what is Boris Johnson’s masterplan for the months ahead…

Just as workers started returning to the office, they might be set to return home – and put on a mask while they’re at it.

But it isn’t all bad news. The travel traffic light system is set to be scrapped and a fourth lockdown is all but being ruled out.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Boris Johnson setting out the government’s plans to combat Covid this winter. The PM is set to hold a press conference at 4pm on Tuesday.

1. Vaccine passports won’t be a thing (probably)

Credit: Getty Images

The big news from this week has been this: people won’t need vaccine passports to enter nightclubs and large venues. Well, Sajid Javid has said as much.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, the health secretary said the government “shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it.” The passport plans were set to be introduced at the end of September, with Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi appearing to confirm this just last week.

But, despite widespread opposition, Downing St contends the scheme has not been ditched altogether, with the idea being kept “in reserve” for the winter months when Covid infections may surge.  Scotland will introduce vaccine passports from October 1.

2. Another lockdown will only be a ‘last resort’

Credit: Getty

Johnson is expected to scrap emergency lockdown laws on Tuesday, with the government telling reporters that a lockdown would only be considered “as a last resort”. There was also “no question” regional lockdowns would need to be reintroduced.

The PM is reportedly “dead set” against a fourth lockdown, and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told ITV News that the government has “absolutely no intention to introduce further lockdowns or restrictions”.

But he added that “we can’t rule anything out,” echoing the sentiments of pensions secretary Therese Coffey who told Sky News that it is “fair” to say they are still on the table as an option.

3. Masks could be made compulsory again

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While lockdowns are out, masks might be making a comeback. Reports suggest the PM will make them mandatory again.

And, Johnson is expected to also recommend people work from home this winter where possible.

On BBC Breakfast, Therese Coffee described more home working, along with statutory sick pay from day one, as “sensible measures.”

4. Jabs, jabs, and more jabs

Credit: Getty

The key message for the PM and his government – keep vaccinations coming to avoid another lockdown.

Booster jabs are to be rolled out to the elderly and clinically vulnerable, whilst the UK’s four chief medical officers have recommended that 12-15 year olds be offered one dose of the Pfizer covid vaccine in order to minimise disruption in schools over winter.

Professor Neil Ferguson highlighted the importance of boosting immunity across the population, with the UK falling behind a number of European countries in its vaccination rollout.

Ferguson told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “There are a set of countries in Europe with considerably more population immunity than us and I think if we want to stop the risk of the large autumn and winter wave we need to boost immunity in the population.”

5. The travel traffic light system is set to go

Credit: Getty

Having ruined many a summer holiday, the government is expected to call time on the travel traffic light system.

Instead, the government will introduce a simple ‘red list’ of countries where Covid is at its worst.

The number of countries on this list is set to be trimmed down, and fully-vaccinated travellers are also expected to no longer require PCR tests for travel.

6. Now, for the bad news

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Despite all the measures, the virus will stay. The truth of the matter is that if places stay open, there will still be illness and deaths from Covid.

One SAGE member said that politicians across the world are trying to “have their cake and eat it” and that the UK can expect to see around 100 deaths a day or 30,000 a year. On Monday, there were 30,825 new Covid cases and 61 Covid-related deaths reported in the lastest 24-hour period.

Sir Jeremy Farrar told German podcast Pandemia: “Politicians across the world are sort of pretending you can have your cake and eat it: ‘You can’t have zero deaths, no control measures, vaccinate if you want to or not vaccinate and it will all end’, and I just don’t think that’s realistic.

“I think [in the UK] around a hundred deaths a day, throughout the year, 30,000 deaths a year, in the current situation with the current vaccines, current treatments, current capacity within the system, I think is a level that would have to in the end be acceptable.”

So measures and restrictions will be needed. But that’s fine because they’ll be well-implemented by the government and well-followed by the public right? Or maybe not if Monday’s news is anything to go by, with figures showing that 300,000 people arrived in England and Northern Ireland between March and May this year may have broken quarantine rules, the BBC reported. That’s a third of all travellers who arrived in this period, just as the Delta variant was surging.

Related links:

UK’s Covid traffic light system ‘to be scrapped by October 1st’

An essential survival guide to starting university in a Covid world

Covid cases in England are 26 times higher than this time last year