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British government unveils COVID-19 plan for winter

The British government on Tuesday unveiled its coronavirus plans for the upcoming autumn and winter seasons that could see the reimposition of some lockdown measures.

Addressing the House of Commons, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said such plans will include offering vaccine booster shots to those most vulnerable and at risk from the virus and encouraging unvaccinated people to get the jab.

“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,” Javid said.

“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. 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,” the health secretary added.

Plan A for the upcoming autumn and winter seasons is widely centered on encouraging the unvaccinated to get the jab and expanding the vaccination scheme to 12 to 15-year-olds and launching the third booster campaign that was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Plan B contingencies include the reimposition of compulsory face coverings, the return to working from home, social distancing in various settings and a major boost in increasing vaccination rates across the country to tackle rising cases and relieve pressure on the National Health Service.

In a press conference given shortly after Javid’s statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that although cases are higher now than they were this time last year, the government is better equipped to fight the virus due to its vaccination program which has proven effective given that deaths remain low.

“We will continue to offer testing, we will continue to urge everyone to be sensible, to be responsible - wash your hands, use ventilation, consider wearing a face covering in crowded places with people that you don’t know, stay at home if you feel unwell, download and use the app,” Johnson said.

On Tuesday, 29,628 people tested positive for the virus, and in the week beginning Sept. 8, 230,783 people had a confirmed positive test result – down 14.3% from the previous week.

The UK reported 185 deaths on Tuesday and on Sept. 8-14, there were 963 deaths – up 1.6% compared to the previous seven days.

The number of vaccinations continues to increase as more than half the population have now received two doses of the vaccine. By the end of Sept. 13, over 48 million people had gotten their first dose of the vaccine and over 44 million people their second.

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