British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is dropping vaccine passports, mandatory face mask rules and work-from-home rules, and will instead rely mainly on vaccinations to get the country through the winter months.
Mr Johnson on Tuesday outlined the government’s pandemic strategy for England and said it would largely aim to expand vaccination to young adolescents and a booster shot program for front-line health care workers and people over the age of 50. focused on getting started. Governments in Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland, which runs its own health care system, are largely expected to follow suit.
The prime minister rejected the mandatory vaccine passport and face mask requirements, at least for now. They will be offered only if COVID-19 cases rise rapidly and hospitals are overwhelmed.
“We believe in vaccines that have made such a difference in our lives and we are now ramping up that effort,” Mr Johnson said during a televised news conference. “Now we’re moving forward with the booster program … so this means we’re going to build even higher walls of immunization protection in this country.”
Unlike Canada, where many provinces require vaccine passports for entry to bars, restaurants and indoor sports facilities, Mr Johnson has backed down on the idea. In July he said vaccine certification would be required for nightclubs and large sporting events by the end of September. But this week they dropped the plan and left it to individual establishments to decide whether the certificates were required.
“We don’t see the need to proceed with mandatory certification, but we will continue to work with the many businesses that are creating such a plan,” he said on Tuesday. He, however, said he would revisit the issue if hospitals came under pressure.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty caused some confusion by indicating that vaccine certification would help stop the spread of the virus. “From a science point of view, no one would doubt that if you go to an indoor venue and everyone around you is vaccinated, you are safe,” he said during the news conference. “How this is done matters a lot to the ministers.”
Mr Johnson expressed confidence that the UK has begun to learn to live with COVID-19, even as health officials report about 30,000 new infections every day – up from almost a year ago Three times.
The big difference is hospitalizations and deaths, which are well below the levels seen during the peak of the pandemic last January. There are currently 8,400 people in hospital with the disease, nearly five times less than at the height of the outbreak. The death toll has also dropped below 200, compared to more than 1,000 a day in January.
However, the daily figures have been rising recently and Mr Johnson said the government would closely monitor hospital admissions for any signs that the National Health Service is under stress. If the NHS is overwhelmed, the prime minister said the government would introduce a “Plan B”, which could include mandatory face mask rules in some settings, advice on work from home and vaccine passports.
The government’s scientific advisory panel has warned that the number of hospitalizations could rise from 1,000 to between 2,000 and 7,000 next month as people mix more freely in school and work. “With current levels of high prevalence combined with unknown behaviors, the burden on health and care settings could increase very quickly,” the panel said in a publication released Tuesday.
Also, the recent vaccine rollout has been fraught with confusion. Earlier this month, a scientific committee advising the government on vaccines declined to recommend that all children aged 12 to 15 be vaccinated. The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) stated that while the health benefits to children of vaccination were marginally greater than the risks, “the benefit gap is considered too small to support universal immunization of healthy children aged 12 to 15 years.” This time.”
Nonetheless, this week the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recommended that all children be vaccinated. The CMO argued that social considerations, including disruption in education, resulted in increased benefits.
Booster shots have also caused controversy. Several scientists, including Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford who helped develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, have said that widespread boosters were unnecessary and that additional vaccines should be distributed to countries that badly need doses.
On Tuesday, the JCVI recommended a booster jab for front-line health care workers and adults over age 50. The committee noted that there is increasing evidence that immunity to the vaccine decreases over time and that a third dose will protect the most vulnerable populations. The government plans to launch a booster program next week and all eligible adults will get their third shot six months after their second dose.
Dr. Whitty defended the booster program by arguing that Britain had taken a middle ground. The JCVI has said “no boosters … but they haven’t gone all the way to recommending universal boosters for everyone,” he said.
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