Boris Johnson warns 'pandemic far from over' ahead of Covid winter plan
Boris Johnson will unveil a series of winter Covid measures tomorrow in a bid to "protect the gains" made over the last nine months.
Guidance to work from home and the mandatory use of face masks are likely to be retained as options in the plan, with lockdowns being a “last resort”.
The Prime Minister will tell the nation on Tuesday how the country can learn to live with coronavirus, underlining how vaccinations will be a central part of the response in the coming months.
Speaking 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.
"Tomorrow 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 plan is understood to have a renewed focus on vaccines as the first line of defence, supported by testing, public health advice, and a "world-leading" variant surveillance system.
It came as the UK’s four chief medical officers said on Monday children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to reduce potential transmission in schools.
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.”
Vaccine passports, which faced opposition from Tory backbenchers and Labour MPs alike, will not form part of the plan.
The decision not to implement passports means that 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.