UK health secretary unveils winter plan to tackle Covid

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The BBC reported, the health secretary has unveiled the government’s plan for tackling Covid during autumn and winter in England.

Sajid Javid said it included offering booster jabs to those most at risk from the virus and maximising uptake among those who have not yet had the vaccine.

According to the BBC, ministers have also prepared a “Plan B” if measures are needed to prevent “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS.

It said, this could include compulsory face coverings in certain settings and asking people to work from home.

The government’s winter plan says, but “more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort.”

Under what ministers describe as “Plan A”, the main defences against Covid include encouraging the unvaccinated to get the jab, vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds and beginning a booster programme.

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Mr Javid told the Commons, testing, tracing of cases and self-isolation for those who catch the virus would be another vital defence.

Businesses are also being encouraged to consider using the NHS Covid Pass to check the vaccination status of customers.

Mr Javid also said it was highly likely frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings will need to have Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in order to be deployed.

The health secretary added that the government would be “keeping an open mind” and waiting for the results of a consultation but he believed this would be “an important step in protecting those at greatest risk”.

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He said a “Plan B” had also been prepared with measures “that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.

This could include legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, he said, while a system of vaccine passports was also being held “in reserve”.

“As well as these three steps, we’d consider a further measure of asking people to work from home if they can for a limited time if that is supported by the data,” he told MPs.

“Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it’s one we need to be ready for just in case.”

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Downing Street said there was no single metric for triggering the introduction of “Plan B” measures but the government would consider a range of data, including the number of patients in hospital, the trajectory of new cases and vaccine effectiveness.

Mr Javid said the government would remove more of its powers in the Coronavirus Act, including those directing the temporary closure of schools.

However, those that are “critical” to the pandemic response, such as supporting statutory sick pay for those self-isolating, will remain.

Mr Javid said there would also be an update on rules for international travel ahead of a formal review point on 1 October – and he suggested PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers would be scrapped in favour of cheaper lateral flow tests.

Asked by Conservative MP Huw Merriman if he would consider moving to lateral flow tests instead, Mr Javid said: “I don’t want to pre-empt the statement by the transport secretary but I believe that when he makes that statement, he [Mr Merriman] will be pleased.”

Source: BBC