On Tuesday 14 September, Health Secretary Sajid Javid set out the government’s COVID-19 Autumn and Winter Plan – a programme aimed at sustaining the gains made by the vaccination programme over the last ten months as well as at preparing the country for the challenges of autumn and winter.
Whilst the Health Secretary was positive about the success of vaccines in reducing hospitalisations and deaths, there was acknowledgement that COVID-19 has not gone away. Cases are likely to rise as social mixing increases, and there is a risk of new variants and potentially waning immunity from vaccines. The government’s winter plan sets out a ‘Plan A’ to manage the country through the coming months, but also a contingency ‘Plan B’ in case further measures are needed to protect the NHS and control infection rates.
Plan A consists of five pillars to steer the country through autumn and winter. It will include:
- Building defences through vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics
- Continuing to identify and isolate positive cases to limit transmission through widespread mass testing
- Supporting the NHS and social care with additional funding and an expanded flu vaccination programme
- Advising people and businesses on how to protect themselves and others through clear guidance and communications
- Pursuing an international approach: helping to vaccinate the world and effectively managing risks at the border.
If data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure, the government has prepared a Plan B.
Plan B measures would be introduced on a sliding scale rather than all at once. They include:
- 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
- Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings
- Asking people once again to work from home if they can, for a limited period.
The CBI’s response
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said that for the government’s Plan A to work, it will be crucial that we learn the lessons of the summer to ensure people are confident in living with the virus.
The CBI welcomes ongoing use of mass testing to drive confidence, and has called on the government to support businesses by utilising all the COVID secure tools at our disposal, from good hygiene and ventilation processes to the use of face coverings.
It is essential that clear forward guidance for firms about what measures will be introduced and when under Plan B should infection rates rise will maximise their ability to plan with certainty.
The CBI will continue to gather insight from members on what these announcements mean for business and reflect this in the CBI’s conversations with the government. Businesses can send through anecdotes and questions to the CBI’s dedicated Coronavirus Mailbox.
The government is expected to set out a revised framework for international travel, in advance of the next formal checkpoint review, with a deadline of 1 October. The CBI has been submitting recommendations to the Global Travel Taskforce and will continue to closely monitor the situation.
- Read the CBI’s new settlement for living with the virus, with three key principles to the government for living confidently with the virus
- Read the CBI’s factsheet on workplace testing for COVID-19 to understand the different approaches employers can take.
Government and regulator resources