Cast your minds back to winter 2020 when we were rocking back and forth between lockdowns and tiers, unsure where the pandemic was headed.
Now that 44 million Brits and counting have received the coronavirus vaccine, it feels (reasonably) safe to say we’re in a better place. However, the winter still poses its challenges – with Boris Johnson set to lay out his plans for the upcoming changes in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at 4pm.
“Thanks to the efforts of the public, the NHS and our phenomenal vaccination programme, we reached Step 4 in our Roadmap and life has returned to a sense of normality,” the prime minister said beforehand.
“These extraordinary times required necessary but intrusive measures. But I’m determined to get of rid of any powers we no longer need because of our vaccine defences. I will set out the next phase in our Covid response shortly.”
The prime minister is said to be focusing his energies on vaccines, not lockdowns, so the chances of things closing down again might be smaller. Currently, nearly 81% of people aged 16 and above have been fully vaccinated (while 90% have had their first dose).
While the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the benefits of vaccinating 12-15-year-olds would be marginal, the UK’s chief medical officers have now approved Covid jabs for this age group.
Boris Johnson will also be looking to repeal aspects of the Coronavirus Act, which allowed the government to introduce certain provisions and restrictions to deal with the pandemic, such as shutting down businesses and schools.
“This is the new normal,” a senior government source told the Daily Telegraph of life this autumn and winter. “We need to learn to live with Covid. 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.”
Here’s what you can to expect to see as we head into the winter months.
Businesses (probably) won’t be shut down
The prime minister is expected to repeal powers in England that are no longer necessary from the Coronavirus Act, as part of the government’s plan for managing Covid over the autumn and winter.
These include powers to close-down sectors of the economy, such as business premises or applying restrictions to events and gatherings.
End of the traffic light travel system
It’s been widely reported that the prime minister will announce an end to the traffic light travel system, whereby countries are designated green, amber or red with corresponding isolation rules.
According to the Telegraph, the traffic light system will be scrapped, PCR tests will not be required for fully vaccinated travellers and the red list will be significantly reduced.
Vaccine passports scrapped
While plans for vaccine passports were set to be rolled out in September, they will no longer be going ahead this month.
Sajid Javid told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.
“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.
“I’m not going to make that decision right now, but I’ve already asked the officials that the moment we can, let’s get rid of these kinds of intrusions.”
No more school closures
As part of the winter plans, the government is expected to end powers enabling temporary closure or restricting access to schools, colleges, and childcare.
Vital powers from the Coronavirus Act will be retained that are critical to protect and support the public.
This includes directing schools to remain open if they close against government guidance, giving sick pay to those isolating from day one rather than day seven, and helping the NHS to get the emergency resources it needs.
Flu and Covid booster jabs
The winter months will bring renewed challenges for healthcare. Covid will circulate alongside flu and other respiratory viruses and the threat of a new variant remains.
The JCVI advice suggested planning for booster vaccines to be rolled out to the most vulnerable from September 2021 to offer an increased level of protection over winter, according to the govt website.
The government expects to receive confirmation in the coming week from the JCVI on the details of a vaccination booster programme with plans in place to begin this month.
This aims to boost immunity over the winter months, protecting the population against serious disease and death and unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
However, there will be some familiar elements to winter pandemic life
Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey told BBC Breakfast on Monday that some Covid rules will need to stay in the upcoming months.
Boris Johnson is expected to make face masks mandatory again and advise the public to work from home where they can in his new plans to reduce infections this winter.
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