‘This is the new normal’: PM prepares to reveal winter COVID plan relying on vaccines not lockdowns

Politics

The prime minister is said to be “dead set” on avoiding another lockdown as he prepares to reveal his plan for managing COVID-19 over the autumn and winter.

Boris Johnson is expected to address a news conference on Tuesday when he will outline how vaccinations will provide Britain’s main defence over the colder months.

According to a senior government source quoted by The Daily Telegraph, the PM will tell the country: “This is the new normal – we need to learn to live with COVID.

“The vaccines are a wall of defence. The autumn and the winter do offer some uncertainty, but the prime minister is dead set against another lockdown.”

As at 12 September, almost 81% of people aged 16 and over were fully-vaccinated, while almost 90% have had the first of two vaccine doses.

The UK’s chief medical officers are due to advise the government on whether vaccination should be available to those aged 12 to 15 after the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation concluded the benefit would be only marginal.

The prime minister is also expected to approve booster jabs, although it is not clear who will be eligible for the third dose of a vaccine.

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But while vaccines may be a major part of the defence, vaccine passports, will not, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the plan to introduce them in England for nightclubs and other crowded venues had been scrapped.

Mr Johnson had previously said vaccine passports would be needed but, following anger from Tory MPs, Mr Javid said the opposite.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.

“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

Also reportedly being scrapped is the traffic light travel system, with The Daily Telegraph saying that the number of red list countries would be reduced and that PCR tests would not be needed for fully-vaccinated arrivals.

Mr Javid told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “I’m not going to make that decision right now, but I’ve already asked the officials that the moment we can, let’s get rid of these kinds of intrusions.”

But scrapping vaccine passports in England could set it apart from Scotland and Wales.

In Scotland, a motion to introduce them was passed on Thursday while a decision is due in Wales next week. Northern Ireland’s leaders have not decided on an official position.

Latest figures showed that 56 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday.

This brings the number of deaths to 134,200, although the Office for National Statistics says there have been 158,000 deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am Sunday, there had been a further 29,173 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK, government figures showed.

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