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The governments in Westminster and Cardiff have recently set out plans showing how they aim to tackle the issue of COVID this winter.

England’s proposals are split into two scenarios:

  • Scanario A – if the number of COVID cases remains managable
  • Senario B – if the number of COVID cases reaches a point where the NHS struggles to cope

The contingency plans in Wales will only be enforced if the level of vaccine immunity falls, or a new fast-spreading variant of COVID emerges.

What is England’s plan for responding to Scenario A?

In the UK Government’s “COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan” they state that COVID booster jabs will be offered to around 30 million UK residents, including those who are aged 50 or over, adults under the age of 50 with certain health conditions and all health and social care workers who are based on the frontline.

They also intend to offer a single-dose COVID vaccine to healthy children aged twelve to fifteen, and strongly encourage anyone else who is not unvaccinated to make sure they do get vaccinated.

Plan A also includes:

  • The continuation of NHS Test and Trace
  • The continuation of the use of PCR tests
  • Encouraging the take up of the free flu jab
  • A reminder to all to wear face masks in crowded places, and keep windows and doors open to let fresh air in when they are meeting others indoors

What is England’s plan for responding to Scenario B?

If Plan A doesn’t prevent the build-up of “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS, then the Government will move to Plan B, which includes:

  • Making face masks compulsary in some settings
  • Asking people to work from home again
  • Introducing vaccine passports for foreign travel

Plan B could be implemented at very short notice, if the Government is alerted to any data they find “concerning”, with their scientific advisors going on to say they will be monitoring the following:

  • the number of people hospitalised with COVID
  • any rapid rates of change in figures
  • the overall state of the NHS

What are the current lockdown rules in England?

The current lockdown rules in England are as follows:

  • 1m plus social distancing guidance still in place in areas such as hospitals and passport control
  • Face coverings are no longer required by law, but the UK government does “expect and reccommend them” in enclosed and crowded spaces
  • Some shops and transport operators are still asking that masks be worn
  • People who have been working from home, should return to the workplace gradually

What is the COVID winter plan in Wales?

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has set out two planning scenarios:

  • COVID Stable – where Wales will remain at alert level zero, and all businesses to remain open
  • COVID Urgent – where there is a sudden deterioration in the number of cases, caused by a drop in vaccine immunity levels or a new, fast -spreading variant

If Wales goes into COVID Urgent, then previously drawn up alert levels, including lockdown level 4, could be used as a last resort.

Wales plan states “While we do not think measures under a COVID Urgent scenario will be necessary this autumn or winter, we cannot completely rule them out.”

The First Minister also went on to say that he planned to relax care home visiting rules as well, meaning visitors will now be able to take lateral flow tests at home, and won’t have to socially distance in designated visiting areas or in residents rooms. Other restrictions around gifts will also be eased.

He did confirm, however, that all other restrictions will remain in place, including:

  • People should continue to work from home, wherever possible
  • Face covering will remain compulsary in shops, hospitals and on public transport – but not in bars or restaurants
  • Secondary School and College staff and pupils to continue to keep testing for COVID regularly
  • People to use the NHS COVID pass to prove they have been vaccinated, or have had a negative lateral flow test if they want to attend indoor and outdoor events, or go to nightclubs

What are the current lockdown rules in Northern Ireland?

The current lockdown rules in Northern Ireland are as follows:

  • People from four households can mix indoors in domestic settings, up to 15 people in total
  • Social distancing limits have been lifted in shops, indoor seated venues and indoor visitor attractions, although wearing of face coverings is still compulsary
  • Social distancing limits in bars and restaurants to remain in place until October the 31st
  • Shops and indoor attractions to continue to use one way systems, have good ventilation and offer hand sanitiser
  • People to work from home where possible
  • Dancing not permitted at indoor venues where music is played – apart from civil ceremonies and weddings
  • Nightclubs to remain closed until October the 31st

What are the lockdown rules in Scotland?

The situation is pretty similar in Scotland, including:

  • Social distancing rules of 2m still apply in healthcare settings, such as Doctors Surgeries, Dentists, and Hospitals
  • Face coverings still compulsary in shops and on public transport
  • Indoor hospitality venues to collect customer contact details
  • People to keep working from home, wherever possible
  • Secondary school pupils to wear face coverings indoors until the half term holidays in October
  • The Scottish government reserves the right to re-impose local travel restrictions
  • All people aged 18 and over to be able to prove their vaccine status at nightclubs and other venues

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