The Government has published its autumn and winter COVID-19 response plan, and Wiltshire Council is asking residents to continue to do what they can to protect one another and local health services at a challenging time.
Within the plan, the Government states that the country is learning to live with COVID-19, and the main line of defence is now vaccination rather than lockdown.
The Government’s plan is to prepare the country for future challenges, while ensuring the NHS does not come under unsustainable pressure.
It wants to achieve this by:
- 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.
Booster vaccines will be offered to those who received a vaccination in phase 1 of the programme. 12-15 year olds will be offered a first dose and this will be carried out by the NHS in conjunction with school immunisation teams.
It is possible that further doses of the COVID-19 vaccine may be offered in the future to reinforce protection. Subject to advice, this may include annual vaccination programmes – as is the case with the flu vaccination.
Isolation and testing
It is expected that everyone with COVID-19 symptoms continues to self‑isolate and take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
The legal requirement to self-isolate for 10 days if an individual tests positive for COVID-19 will remain in place in order to prevent those who are infected from mixing in the community and passing on the virus. Over autumn and winter, PCR testing for those with COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be available free of charge.
Regular asymptomatic testing will continue to help find cases and break the chains of transmission. It will be particularly focused on those who are not fully vaccinated, those in education, and those in higher-risk settings such as the NHS, social care, and prisons.
To help support health services, at an already busy time, a free flu vaccination will be available for more people than normal. It will be available to the previously eligible groups, which includes primary school children, 65 year olds and over, vulnerable groups, and pregnant women. Eligibility for a free flu vaccination this year will also be extended to include secondary school children and 50-64 year olds.
The Government will shortly set out a revised framework for international travel, in advance of the next formal checkpoint review, with a deadline of 1 October.
Mandatory vaccine‑only certification will not be implemented from the end of September where large crowds gather, but this does remain a contingency option.
Cllr Simon Jacobs, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, said:
“Autumn and winter will undoubtedly be a challenge for our health services. The Government has set out its national plan to ensure those challenges are met, and locally we will work closely with our partners to help ease the pressure the services will be under.
“It’s clear that even though the vaccines have protected so many and enabled us all to live more normal lives, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere and cases in the county remain high. And, alongside the other respiratory illnesses in circulation this time of year, such as flu, we all have an important responsibility to do what we can to protect one another.
“If we all continue to follow the measures of wearing a mask in enclosed indoor spaces; washing or sanitising hands regularly; isolating and booking a PCR test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms; getting the vaccine when offered, and taking regular lateral flow tests to help break transmission, then we’re all playing our part in giving our health teams the best opportunity to carry out their vital services.
“This pandemic has proven to be anything but predictable but one thing we can all count on is the support of our local communities through these continuing difficult times, which has been one of the shining lights over the last 18 months“.
The full Government plan can be found here.