September 16, 2021, 17:56

    Covid winter Plan B in full – masks and vaccine passports to prevent fresh surge

    Covid winter Plan B in full – masks and vaccine passports to prevent fresh surge

    Mandatory face masks and vaccine passports could be back this winter under the Government's new "plan B" if the Covid situation worsens.

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the new blueprint for the colder months in the Commons, which includes booster jabs for the over-50s from next week and jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds.

    The five-pillar plan also covers testing, tracing and self-isolation; money for the NHS and care; advice on preventing transmission and an international approach.

    The 30-page document also includes contingency plans if the NHS comes under "unsustainable pressure" in the coming months.

    These include mandatory masks in some settings, the introduction of Covid vaccine passports and ordering people to work from home once more.

    On "Plan B", the document states: "The high levels of protection in the population against COVID-19 should mean that very stringent restrictions are not needed over autumn and winter to reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19, reduce growth in hospitalisations and prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the plans in the Commons

    "However, there remains significant uncertainty."

    Here's what you need to know about the Covid-19 winter plan.

    Plan A

    Booster jabs will begin within days

    From next week, people over 50-years-old and the clinically vulnerable will start being called for Covid boosters by the NHS.

    Mr Javid confirmed he had accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to begin rolling out third doses to the most vulnerable.

    "Like with many other vaccines, there's evidence that the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccine reduces over time, particularly in older people who are greater risk," he said.

    "So booster doses are an important way of keeping the virus under control for the long term."

    Some 30 million older Brits will be offered a booster six months after their second dose to top up their immunity against the virus.

    First doses will also be offered to 12 to 15-year-olds, as confirmed by the Government on Monday.

    Mr Javid also urged the 16 million people over 16 who are unvaccinated to come forward for their jabs.

    Mandatory jabs for frontline staff

    It is "highly likely" that frontline NHS and care staff will be required to have Covid-19 and flu jabs, Mr Javid told MPs.

    Social care staff in England have been told they will need to be double jabbed by November 11.

    And a consultation has been launched into whether to impose similar rules on NHS staff.

    Mr Javid said: "Although we are keeping an open mind and we won't be making a final decision until we fully consider the results of the consultation, I believe that it is highly likely that frontline NHS staff and those working in wider social care settings will also have to be vaccinated to protect those that are around them, and that this will be an important step in protecting those at greatest risk."

    Self isolation, testing and swabs for school pupils to continue

    Regular testing and contact tracing will remain a key part of the Covid response.

    People will still be required by law to self isolate for 10 days if they test positive for the virus.

    If you have symptoms you are also expected to stay home and take a PCR test, but this is not a legal requirement.

    NHS Test and Trace will continue to operate but fully-jabbed Brits do not legally need to isolate if they come into contact with a positive Covid case.

    The self isolation requirement for fully vaccinated contacts was dropped in August and this will continue into the winter.

    Pupils get tested prior to returning to school in Dorset
    (

    Image:
    Getty Images)

    Twice-weekly testing of pupils in secondary schools will continue until at least the end of term – despite Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying he would look at axing it.

    Free lateral flow tests will continue to be provided to the public so they can test themselves regularly.

    Masks advised for crowded indoor spaces

    People will be encouraged to meet outdoors or open windows if they are inside, and to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings.

    Other advice includes washing your hands frequently and using the NHS Covid-19 app.

    Brits are also urged to stay at home if they feel unwell and to get tested and self isolate if required.

    Businesses are also told to "consider" using an NHS Covid pass to check for vaccination status or a recent negative tests.

    Travel rules to be axed

    The traffic light system for foreign travel is expected to be overhauled within weeks.

    Mr Javid said an announcement would come from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps by October 1.

    The UK has had "strong defences at the border" and "we have already relaxed the rules for fully vaccinated travellers", he said.

    Officials are looking at whether to scrap the traffic light system, which designates countries as red, amber or green depending on their Covid risk.

    It is thought that the amber and green categories could be scrapped but the requirements for holidaymakers from red list countries must stay in a Government-backed quarantine hotel for 10 days.

    Plan B

    Return of mandatory masks

    Ministers scrapped the legal requirement to wear face masks in crowded and enclosed spaces in July.

    But compulsory masks for places like shops and public transport could return if the Covid situation deteriorates.

    The document states: "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."

    Face masks could become mandatory again if Covid situation worsens
    (

    Image:
    AFP via Getty Images)

    Mandatory vaccine passports for venues

    The Government has gone back and forth on whether to demand Covid vaccine passports.

    Boris Johnson originally announced plans to make it mandatory for venues like nightclubs from the end of September.

    However Mr Javid said the plans had been shelved at the weekend.

    The Government is currently "encouraging" venues to ask for Covid passes, which also allow people to present proof of a recent negative test.

    But under Plan B, they would make vaccine passports mandatory in some settings – with a negative test not enough to gain admission.

    The move could come at short notice if there is a Covid surge, and businesses will be given a week's notice.

    This would include nightclubs, large venues with more than 500 guests, large music festivals and events such as concerts and football matches.

    Clubs have been shut for the majority of the last 18 months due to the Covid-19 lockdown
    (

    Image:
    FlickrVision)

    Working from home

    People could be asked to work from home once again if they can, for a limited period.

    The document states: "The Government recognises this causes more disruption and has greater immediate costs to the economy and some businesses than the other Plan B interventions, so a final decision would be made based on the data at the time."

    Ordering people to work from home is one of the key levers the Government can pull to reduce transmission, as it drastically reduces the numbers of people mixing in offices and on public transport.

    However harmful economic and social restrictions "would only be considered as a last resort", the document says.

    Sourse: mirror.co.uk

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