This week, the Government announced the Covid-19 response for Autumn and Winter. In doing so, they aim to be able to sustain the progress made and ensure that the NHS does not come up against pressures and additional challenges.
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.
In addition, winter is always a challenging time for the NHS. This winter could be particularly difficult due to the impacts of COVID-19 on top of the usual increase in emergency demand and seasonal respiratory diseases such as influenza (flu).
There are 2 parts to the Covid-19 response for Autumn and Winter. The key points are summarised below for you and the complete document can be found here
NCASS’ Mark Laurie commented that,
‘The governments winter plan is timely and helpful for businesses and its encouraging that the government are looking to avoid lockdown measures if possible. Maintaining tools in their armoury to mitigate against any winter surge in infections which may happen.
This does, however, demonstrate that the recovery for hospitality and the events sector will be drawn out and that further support measures may be needed to help businesses, many of whom have struggled for nearly two years with little support or work.
It demonstrates the need to extend the reduced VAT rate which our customers were not able to take advantage of and which will end before the new season. If our sectors are to recover In 2022 we will need the VAT reduction extended through the season – amongst other measures.’
- Building 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.
The Government’s Plan B prioritises measures which can help control transmission of the virus while seeking to minimise economic and social impacts. This includes:
- Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously.
- Introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings (Vaccine Passports)
- Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings.
More on Vaccine Passports:
Ministers abandoned proposals for mandatory vaccine passports for entry to nightclubs and mass events from 1 October but the plan gives them the right to reintroduce the measures should cases rise.
Currently, the NHS Covid pass available on the app will certify individuals based on vaccination, testing or natural immunity status. But if plan B is implemented, it will change to display full vaccination only for over-18s. The government advises businesses to make contingency plans, saying the change could be introduced “at short notice”. Businesses requiring the passport would include:
- All nightclubs.
- Indoor crowded settings with 500 or more attenders.
- Outdoor crowded settings with 4,000 or more attenders, such as festivals.
- Any settings with 10,000 or more attenders, such as large sports stadiums.
As part of the third six-month review of the Act due in September 2021, the Government have said that they are committed to removing those legal provisions that are no longer necessary or proportionate.
- Powers to close-down sectors of the economy, such as business premises, or apply restrictions to events and gatherings.
- Powers that disrupt education, enabling temporary closure or restricting access to schools, colleges, and childcare.
- Powers that extend time limits for urgent warrants.
- Powers to detain infectious people.
However, the Government has reviewed the remaining regulations and decided, subject to
agreement from Parliament that it is necessary to extend the following regulations until
24 March 2022, at which point they will be reviewed:
- a) The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England)
Regulations 2020, which impose legal requirements to self-isolate on positive cases
and unvaccinated close contacts. Self-isolation will remain crucial in breaking
chains of transmission throughout autumn and winter.
- b) The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations
2020, which enable local authorities to respond to serious and imminent public
- c) The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability)
(England) Regulations 2021, which impose testing and quarantine requirements on
arrivals in England, will remain.
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.
Please remember that ventilation is a key factor in reducing the spread of Covid-19. Due to the importance of fresh air in limiting the spread of COVID-19, the Government will set out in guidance the practical steps everyone can take to maximise fresh air in order to reduce the risk of airborne transmission, taking into account the colder months when more activities take place indoors.
We will as ever, continue you to support and update you as more information is released as with any changes that will impact our sector. If you have a question or an opinion about the Autumn & Winter plan, please send it through to [email protected]