Boris Johnson is to hold a press conference this afternoon where he’s expected to set out the Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus over winter. It is the first time he has given an update on the pandemic since waiving the last social restrictions imposed on the public on 19 July.
The prime minister will set out details at a Downing Street press conference this at 4pm following a Commons statement by Health Secretary Sajid Javid. This time may be subject to change, as some of his previous Downing Street press conferences and announcements have been delayed.
This morning the Government confirmed that people over the age of 50 would be offered a booster jab at least six months after they received their second dose of the vaccine. Ministers believe it will help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by new cases of Covid-19 it moves into the winter.
Ahead of the announcement, Mr Johnson said: “The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.
“I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.”
The Prime Minister is expected to repeal large parts of the Coronavirus Act, including the power to close the economy, the imposing of restrictions on events and gatherings, the power to temporarily close or restrict access to schools and powers to detain infectious people.
The traffic light system for travel is also likely to be scrapped and be replaced by a simpler system; countries people are allowed to travel to and a red list, where hotel quarantine will remain.
It is believed that testing rules will change and will be based on vaccination status. It is expected that double jabbed people will only be required to take a lateral flow test before travelling back to the UK, and on day two after their arrival, whereas those who haven’t received both doses must take more expensive PCR tests.
The red list is also set to be cut down significantly, currently, there are 62 countries on the list.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce that controversial plans to introduce vaccine passports for large venues like nightclubs have been dropped.
Following rumours of a two-week “firebreak lockdown” in October half term, Mr Johnson is also expected to lay out measures that would be introduced as a last resort if the NHS becomes overwhelmed by a surge in infections.
This could include the return of mandatory mask-wearing as well as renewed guidance to work from home where possible.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said in his opening statement: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
“These measures would be communicating clearly and urgently the need for caution. Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings.
“Whilst we’re not going ahead with mandatory vaccine-only Covid-status certification now, we will be holding that power 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.
“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.”
Earlier today the Government published its 30-page autumn and winter Covid plan. The plan suggests that vaccine passports may be more probable than what Mr Javid implied during his opening statement.
The plans stress that the plan B contingency is just there in case of emergency but suggests that businesses that might be affected should start making plans for their possible introduction.
It says: “Under Plan B, the government expects to introduce mandatory vaccine certification in a limited number of settings, with specific characteristics. The government hopes that it would not be necessary to mandate vaccine certification more widely than these settings, though this cannot be entirely ruled out.”
If Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data. Therefore, to help businesses prepare their own contingency plans, the government will shortly publish more detail about the proposed certification regime that would be introduced as part of plan B.
The government would seek to give businesses at least one week’s notice before mandatory vaccine certification came into force.
The announcement will be broadcast on BBC News and Sky News at around 4pm and will be available to watch live online via BBC iPlayer or on Sky News’ YouTube channel.