Politics

Lockdowns To Be ‘Last Resort’ As Boris Johnson Set To Unveil Covid Winter Plan

Toby Melville via Reuters

Boris Johnson will on Tuesday outline his winter strategy to tackle Covid-19.

A new wave of lockdowns is likely only to be introduced as a “last resort” as part of a winter battleplan to keep Covid under control.

Boris Johnson will outline a plan – which is likely to include booster jabs for the most vulnerable and the return of guidance to work from home – during an address to the nation on Tuesday.

The prime minister’s strategy is also likely to include retaining the mandatory use of face masks.

It will come a day after the UK’s chief medical officers approved extending the Covid vaccination programme to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.

As part of the PM’s package, Covid laws that are no longer required will be ditched and plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large crowd venues have been shelved.

The travel traffic lights system is also expected to be scrapped and PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers.

Number 10 said another lockdown over winter would only be considered as a “last resort”.

Asked whether ministers would consider a winter lockdown if Covid-19 cases rise, the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “We are in a very different place than where we were previously when other lockdowns were introduced, thanks to the success of our vaccine programme and other things like therapeutics treatments for coronavirus.

“We would only ever consider those sort of measures as a last resort and we will set out in more detail tomorrow what our approach will be should we see a significant increase in cases.”

Johnson was tight-lipped on whether he would rule out a winter lockdown, ahead of Tuesday’s announcement on Covid rule changes.

Speaking on a visit to Leicester on Monday, he said: “We’ve got to do everything that’s right to protect the country.

“But the way things are going at the moment we’re very confident in the steps that we’ve taken.”

On Monday, the UK’s four chief medical officers said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to reduce potential transmission in schools.

The decision to rollout the vaccine to younger children means that around three million children could be eligible for the jab and comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

It is expected the vaccinations will be given through schools as soon as possible.

The issue of vaccine passports has caused growing disquiet among Tory ranks, as well as facing opposition from opposition parties and industry figures.

The decision not to implement them means measures in England deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on their introduction was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, while a decision is expected in Wales next week.

Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that vaccine passports were a “huge intrusion into people’s lives” and Johnson too said he wanted to avoid passports too.

“What we want to do is avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can,” he said.

“That’s the course we’re on but I think you’ve got to be prudent and you’ve got to keep things in reserve in case things change.”


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