13 things Boris Johnson may announce in Covid Winter Plan to avoid new lockdown
Boris Johnson is "dead set" on avoiding further lockdown as he prepares to set out his plan to get the country through coronavirus over the autumn and winter.
The Prime Minister will tomorrow set out a "toolbox" of options including working from home and compulsory face-masks to help avoid another devastating lockdown.
Mr Johnson will announce the plan - first revealed by the Mirror in July - at a Downing Street press conference joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance.
It’s thought he will tell the nation how they need to learn to live with the virus, with vaccinations the key defence against soaring infections over the coming months.
And some key details have already been spelt out - with all children aged 12 to 15 set to be offered the jab.
Plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large crowd venues have been shelved - for now.
The travel traffic lights system is also expected to be scrapped and PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers. There will also be a major advertising campaign in a bid to do everything possible to avoid a winter lockdown.
But while many powers to shut down venues under the Coronavirus Act will be rescinded, the core power to impose a lockdown will remain in place.
Covid infection rates and hospitalisations are higher than at this stage last year - but the PM is confident that jabs will keep death rates down as the country goes into winter.
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey suggested that nothing was off the table, adding: "The Prime Minister will be setting out the Covid winter plan tomorrow. I think my approach, and I see that with a lot of employers' organisations, is about having a situation-specific approach."
Health Secretary Sajid Javid refused to rule out another lockdown on Sunday - but promised Christmas will not be cancelled this year despite Mr Johnson breaking his promise last festive season.
So what is in the Prime Minister’s arsenal, and what could the Covid winter plan look like? Here’s everything we know so far.
Lockdown powers reduced…
In a nod to anti-lockdown Tories, Boris Johnson is expected to repeal powers in England that are no longer necessary from the 2020 Coronavirus Act.
Parts of the 2020 Act will be extended this month in a Commons vote, which is likely to prompt a Tory revolt.
However, powers to close down individual restaurants, bars, schools and events will be axed - as will some powers to detain infectious people.
But it’s important to note the 2020 Act wasn’t actually used for England’s lockdowns. So axing these powers doesn’t make much practical difference.
Boris Johnson will keep the separate powers to impose lockdowns in England if he needs to, because these were contained within the 1984 Public Health Act.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed: “The Public Health Act stays where it is”.
… But lockdown is NOT ruled out
A full lockdown this winter is a last resort - but it’s not ruled out.
No10 admitted: “The winter months will bring renewed challenges. Covid will circulate alongside flu and other respiratory viruses and the threat of a new variant remains.
“It is difficult to predict with certainty how these will interact and what pressure they may place on the NHS.”
Both Boris Johnson and his official spokesman have refused to rule out further lockdowns, with the PM’s spokesman instead saying: “We would only ever consider those sorts of measures as a last resort.
“We all set out in more detail tomorrow what our approach would be should we see a significant increase in cases.”
He stressed a last resort would be “when the NHS is about to be overwhelmed”.
Asked if more than 100 deaths a day would be an acceptable threshold without a lockdown he replied: “We’ve never set any sort of number on that, nor would we.”
Asked if there could be regional lockdowns he said: “You’re jumping too far in advance into a hypothetical situation.”
Booster and flu vaccines for millions of Brits
The government has vowed to use a mass vaccine booster programme as “our first line of defence over the autumn and winter months”.
It’s thought the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has already given advice to government, with an announcement due on Tuesday.
But the Prime Minister let the cat out of the bag, saying: “That’s going ahead, that’s already been approved, I think that’s a good thing.”
According to reports, the boosters will be rolled out to all over-50s and vulnerable people, starting with the oldest, most vulnerable and NHS workers.
This sounds similar to the JCVI’s interim advice, in June, which had suggested a two-phase booster rollout.
Stage one would give boosters to immunosuppressed and extremely vulnerable over-16s; care home residents; frontline health and care workers; and all over-70s.
Stage two would give them to all over-50s, plus all over-16s in a flu or Covid risk group, and any adults who share their home with an immunosuppressed person.
This is yet to be confirmed.
Jabs for children aged 12-15
All UK children aged 12 and over are the set be offered one dose of the Covid vaccine after advisors gave it the green light.
The UK's four Chief Medical Officers have now recommended a "universal" rollout of the Pfizer jab to children aged 12 to 15 - after judging it will help prevent schools chaos over winter.
All UK over-16s are already able to get the jab, with 16 and 17-year-olds getting an "initial" one dose instead of two. Under current rules, 12-15s could only get it if they were in vulnerable groups.
Tory ministers are tipped to accept the advice shortly, which would mean a mass rollout of jabs could begin on school grounds in days.
It's expected parents will be asked to give consent before their child is vaccinated.
The Chief Medical Officers advised that children aged 12 to 15 are only offered one dose of the Pfizer jab for now.
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will be asked to give further advice on whether 12-15s should get a second dose, but this advice is not expected before Christmas.
Vaccine passports are off the table - for now
Nightclubs and other big crowded venues were going to be forced to ask all punters for a “vaccine passport” from the end of this month.
But Boris Johnson abruptly ditched that plan on Sunday after a furious backlash from his own MPs.
So sudden was the U-turn that his Health Secretary was unaware of the change at 8.30am, then announced it at 9.45am.
There are two important facts here - firstly, venues can still ask punters for a vaccine passport or proof of a test if they want. It’s just not mandatory.
Secondly, vaccine passports are still part of the toolbox for later in winter - they could be brought back later in winter if cases surge.
Boris Johnson said: “We want to avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can… but I think you've got to be prudent and you've got to keep things in reserve in case things change."
A massive advertising campaign
There will reportedly be a major advertising campaign urging people in England to get ready for a difficult winter.
It could emphasise guidance like keeping windows open and wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces (more below).
Then, of course, there are the basic things like washing hands more regularly and getting regular lateral flow tests free from your local pharmacy or gov.uk.
Critics will be praying it is easier to follow than the infamous “stay alert” slogan of last year.
Face masks are currently not forced by law in any indoor spaces, though they are “expected and recommended” in anywhere crowded like public transport.
While the Prime Minister will probably stop short of bringing back compulsory masks, he could threaten for them to make a return if cases surge later in the winter.
Tory minister Therese Coffey confirmed “masks have certainly helped” in stopping airborne transmission of the virus.
This puts the PM in an awkward position, as most Tory MPs are not bothering to follow the existing guidance on wearing a mask in the Commons chamber.
Working from home
Currently the government is not recommending that people who can should work from home.
Again, while this is unlikely to change on Tuesday, it could be threatened as a future move.
Minister Ms Coffey said for now “it’s for employers to decide with their employees and talk that through”.
She added: “I don’t think it’s right for the government to be telling employers directly how they should be managing the relationship with their employees.”
Ventilation and hand washing
The advertising campaign is likely to highlight the things ordinary Brits can do to stop the spread of the virus.
This could include washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly, opening windows (even in winter) and ensuring air conditioning takes air from outside rather than circulating stale air.
Ms Coffey said: “Things like ventilation are important, that’s one of the key mitigations”.
Sick pay to remain… but furlough axed
Parts of the 2020 Coronavirus Act are being extended in a Commons vote.
These include a measure to allow people to claim Statutory Sick Pay from the first day they self-isolate, rather than later in the week.
However, the furlough scheme is still planned to be axed on September 30, despite 1.6million Brits still claiming after Freedom Day.
That, together with the Universal Credit cut in October, is likely to throw many into fresh crisis.
Positive people still have to self-isolate
One big rule not being axed is that if you test positive for Covid, you must still isolate for 10 days.
This is to protect people from the virus. You can still be fined if you skip isolation.
However, you do not need to isolate if you come into contact with a Covid sufferer - as long as you’re double jabbed, that is.
Travel PCR tests set to axed
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said he plans to scrap "intrusive" PCR tests for foreign travellers "as soon as I possibly can" as families are struggling to keep up with costs.
Mr Javid said he is already in talks with officials, discussing the best way to get "rid of these kinds of intrusions".
Speaking to Sky News's Trevor Phillips on Sunday, he said: "The cost that generates for families, particularly families just trying to go out and holiday, you know we shouldn’t be keeping anything like that in place for a second longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Reports suggest travellers could take cheaper, rapid lateral flow tests instead. This is despite the fact lateral flow tests are less reliable and do not record Covid variants.
Travel rules axed and red list of countries ‘cut down’
According to reports, the green, amber and red traffic light travel lists could be torn up from next month.
Reports suggest the amber list could be axed entirely, and the red list - from which arriving Brits must quarantine in a hotel - would be cut down from more than 60 countries to a much smaller number.
A standard update on the lists themselves is due this Thursday, but in the long term their days could be numbered.
It’s not confirmed if the PM will address this issue in full on Tuesday.