Who will get a booster jab and why a winter lockdown could still be on the cards

Ministers have announced a two-step plan for avoiding a lockdown this winter while refusing to rule out a fourth clampdown.

Who will get a booster jab and why a winter lockdown could still be on the cards

With the seasons beginning to change, ministers have been setting out what Covid controls in England could look like this autumn and winter.

Here is a look at what to expect.

– What is all this talk about masks and vaccine passports?

Let us not get ahead of ourselves just yet, that is all part of Plan B if the first batch of measures does not prevent rising coronavirus cases during the colder months.

– And what does Plan A look like?

Plan A for autumn and winter will focus on following through with the vaccine programme, while also carrying out a booster jab campaign to top up the immunity of those already fully inoculated against the virus.

In terms of advice, people will be encouraged to meet outdoors or open windows if indoors, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings, wash their hands frequently, and use the NHS Covid-19 app.

Social care workers and frontline NHS staff might have to take up the offer of a Covid-19 and flu vaccination in order to continue in their roles, although such measures are subject to consultation.

– Will I get a booster shot?

If you are aged 50 and over, have been vaccinated six months ago or more and live in England, Scotland or Wales, then you will be given the option to have a third jab.

Care home residents and frontline health and social care workers will also be among the 30 million who qualify to receive a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as of next week.

People aged 16 & over who have received Covid-19 vaccine
People aged 16 & over who have received Covid-19 vaccine (PA Graphics)

– Can I still get the flu jab?

Yes. Experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have deemed it safe to receive both the coronavirus and flu virus at the same time.

People will be able to get both vaccines on the same day, preferably with one shot in each arm.

– Who else qualifies for a booster? 

All those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and anyone aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group for Covid (who were included in priority groups one to nine during the initial vaccine rollout) will also be eligible for a jab.

– And what happens if this vaccinating and guidance fails to keep Covid numbers down?

The Government has announced it has a Plan B to escalate to, which could involve reinstating work from home guidance, introducing strict vaccine-only entry conditions for some venues and events, and making it mandatory to wear masks in crowded places and on public transport.

There could also be communication to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously, a tactic officials suggested had been seen to work when cases have risen previously.

– So have ministers ruled out a lockdown?

While a lockdown is not part of the winter plan, it has not been ruled out by ministers or Downing Street.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out needing to deploy a lockdown in England during winter
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out needing to deploy a lockdown in England during winter (Commons)

– Could they bring in these Plan B restrictions immediately?

The work from home guidance, yes, that could be announced by ministers without needing to tweak the law.

But the vaccine passport measure and reimposing the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings would require new legislation to be passed, meaning MPs would have to sign off on the proposals first.

– Weren’t vaccine passports ditched?

It is true that Health Secretary Sajid Javid had rowed back on imposing them in nightclubs at the end of the month, but the Government warned it would keep them in “reserve” – and the winter plan seems to be what ministers were referring to.

In quite a few places, if the policy gets brought in.

Nightclub vaccine status checks would be back on the cards, while also applying to any indoor venue with 500 or more attendees likely to be in close proximity to one another, so, most music gigs and concerts.

Organisers of profession football matches and other large outdoor events, such as festivals, will also have to ask attendees to prove they are double-jabbed, with vaccine passport rules applying to outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people and any settings with 10,000-plus.

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