Grayling UK Covid-19 Monitoring: Political Overview

15th September 2021, 12:47 pm

UK Government

Winter Plan to tackle Coronavirus (England)

• In a statement to Parliament, Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the government’s plan for tackling Covid over the winter period. The full document can be found here.
• Javid announced that around 30 million people would be offered a third booster vaccine, six months after their second dose. Those eligible include the over-50s, younger adults with health conditions, and frontline health and care workers. The vaccination programme will also be expanded to 12 to 15 year olds.
• Javid added that vaccination is likely to be mandated for frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings.
• The government has prepared a “Plan B” if further measures are needed to prevent “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS, including compulsory face coverings in specific settings and a work from home requirement for businesses that are able to do so.
• Under “Plan B”, the government would also expect mandatory proof of vaccination for nightclubs, crowded indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and crowded outdoor events with more than 4,000 people.
• PCR testing will continue to be available free of charge, as will symptom-free lateral flow tests.
• For those still required to self-isolate, government will continue to offer “practical and financial support to those eligible” – this will be reviewed at the end of March 2022.
• The Health Secretary is also looking at measures to reduce PCR testing costs for international travel following the recommendations of a CMA review last week.
• The government will publish a new framework for international travel, with details to be announced ahead of the 1October travel review.

Prime Ministerial Statement

• At Downing Street, the Prime Minister, alongside the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance, repeated the main elements of the plan.
• The PM noted that while the UK had a successful vaccination programme, it was still necessary to safeguard these gains. Comparing the situation to last autumn, the PM argued that while there were more daily cases, the UK was now better placed to fight coronavirus due to the vaccine rollout.
• The PM highlighted that 80% of over-16s are now double vaccinated and 90% of the adult population have COVID antibodies. He suggested this had led the UK to be one of the most open economies in Europe, and the country should continue to stick with the current strategy.
• The PM also highlighted the UK’s efforts in global immunisation, with a commitment to send 100 million doses to developing countries by next June.
• The PM said it would not be sensible for the government to rule out vaccination passports, masks, and work-from-home advice.
• Chris Whitty highlighted that while cases have started to stabilise, the number of deaths is slowly rising.
• The PM and the Chief Medical Officer hope that smaller changes and nonpharmaceutical interventions like face coverings will have a larger impact on case numbers, given the current high level of immunity.

Q&A

• In response to the BBC’s Vicki Young, the PM remarked that there was no specific number of COVID cases that would trigger the government’s “Plan B”. Instead, it would be the state of the NHS, the rate of hospitalisations, and “other factors” that would drive policy. The PM was clear that Covid is still out there and remained a risk.
• Clarifying his position on vaccine passports, the Prime Minister felt that not introducing them at present was the “right balance” based on the current data. He also clarified that he would support their use at large events, rather than indoor venues of any size.

Scotland

• The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, held a press briefing to set out Scotland’s Covid-19 strategy. The FM told MSPs there was evidence that cases are starting to “slow slightly”.
• The FM also confirmed that a vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds will begin next week, as in England. Drop-in clinics will be made available from 20 September, and from 27 September formal invite letters will be sent out.
• Booster vaccines will also be offered to all adults over 50, frontline health and care workers, and high-risk individuals.

Contact us

Alan Boyd-Hall
Head of Public Affairs
Email: alan.boyd-hall@grayling.com
@GraylingUK & @Grayling_PA
grayling.com

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