The Government has today set out it’s ‘COVID-19 RESPONSE: AUTUMN AND WINTER PLAN’.
Key points of the Plan are:
- Over autumn and winter, the Government will aim to sustain the progress made so far and prepare the country for future challenges, while ensuring the National Health Service (NHS) does not come under unsustainable pressure.
- The Government plans to achieve this by:
- Building our defences through pharmaceutical interventions: vaccines, antivirals and disease modifying therapeutics.
- Identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission: Test, Trace and Isolate.
- Supporting the NHS and social care: managing pressures and recovering services.
- Advising people on how to protect themselves and others: clear guidance and communications.
- Pursuing an international approach: helping to vaccinate the world and managing risks at the border.
- This is the Government’s Plan A – designed to steer the country through autumn and winter 2021-22. However, the last 18 months have shown the pandemic can change course rapidly and unexpectedly and it remains hard to predict with certainty what will happen. There are a number of variables including:
- levels of vaccination;
- the extent to which immunity wanes over time;
- how quickly, and how widely social contact returns to pre-pandemic levels as schools return and offices reopen; and
- whether a new variant emerges which fundamentally changes the Government’s assessment of the risks.
Businesses (Plan A)
- To support businesses through the autumn and winter period, the Government will continue to provide up-to-date Working Safely guidance on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace. Businesses should consider this guidance in preparing their health and safety risk assessments, and put in place suitable mitigations.
- In line with government guidance at step 4, an increasing number of workers have gradually returned, or are preparing to return, to offices and workplaces. As workers return to the workplace, employers should follow the Working Safely guidance.
- By law, businesses must not ask or allow employees to come to work if they are required to self-isolate.
- In addition, businesses are encouraged to:
- Ask employees to stay at home if they are feeling unwell.
- Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air to indoor spaces. Businesses should identify any poorly ventilated spaces, for example by using a CO2 monitor, and take steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas.
- Provide hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and clean surfaces which people touch regularly.
- Display an NHS QR code poster for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, so they are alerted if there’s an outbreak and can take action to protect others.
- Consider using the NHS COVID Pass.
If the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure, the Government has prepared a Plan B for England. The Government hopes not to have to implement Plan B, but given the uncertainty, it is setting out details now so that the public and businesses know what to expect if further measures become necessary. Plan B includes:
- Manadatory Vaccine Certification – Under Plan B, the Government expects to introduce mandatory vaccine certification in a limited number of settings, with specific characteristics. If Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data. Therefore, in order 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. Under Plan B, the Government expects that mandatory vaccine-only certification would be introduced for visitors to the following venues:
- All nightclubs;
- Indoor, crowded settings with 500 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to be in close proximity to people from other households, such as music venues or large receptions;
- Outdoor, crowded settings with 4,000 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to be in close proximity to people from other households, such as outdoor festivals; and
- Any settings with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sports and music stadia. There are some settings that will be exempt from requirements to use the NHS COVID Pass, including communal worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals and other commemorative events, protests and mass participation sporting events.
- Legal requirement to wear face coverings – If Plan B is implemented, the Government will bring back the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings. The precise settings will be decided at the time.
- Advice to work from home to reduce transmission in work settings
- Local management of the virus – includes targeted surge testing, vaccination logistical support, logistics support, and national funding to enhance local communications efforts.
You can find the full plan here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1017404/COVID-19-response-autumn-and-winter-plan-2021.pdf / https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-autumn-and-winter-plan-2021
And the media release here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-to-set-out-autumn-and-winter-plan-for-covid