Vaccination “passports” and an October half-term “firebreak” are among the policies expected to be announced by the government this week as it looks to slow and reverse the steady increase in covid-19 positive cases evident since Boris Johnson ordered the relaxation of safety measures two months ago.
The mandatory wearing of facemasks in public places and on public transport and working from home could also be reintroduced if coronavirus cases continue to surge.
The firebreak – a one- or two-week complete national lockdown to stem the spread of the virus – has been discussed in Downing Street over the past month, a move which Prime Minister Johnson ignored 12 months ago and which many suggest made the second wave of covid so deadly for thousands.
Worries are increasing that the NHS could come under major strain in the next few months if the nation is also hit with a bad flu season.
The measures likely to be introduced aim to avoid the need for a longer term nationwide lockdown, The Times reported on Saturday.
In Croydon in the past week there were 1,147 new cases of covid-19 reported, an 11 per cent increase over the previous week.
There are concerns among health service officials in Croydon over the relatively slow vaccination take-up rate, which remains well below national and London averages.
Meanwhile, according to newspaper reports at the weekend, sources at No10 Downing Street have briefed that the government “may need to take measures to help manage the virus during periods of higher risk, such as winter”.
Ministers, the reports state, “will as far as possible seek to avoid imposing restrictions that have significant economic, social and health costs”.
The government wants to avoid a third national lockdown, to avoid damaging the hospitality industry or reclosing schools. But the government is about to extend its “Draconian” covid powers for another six months.
The Coronavirus Act will automatically lapse after two years in force in March 2022. The legislation gives local authorities and the police sweeping powers to restrict public gatherings, close premises and force people to self-isolate.
The rollout of vaccinations has helped lower the number of people testing positive for the virus needing to be hospitalised, but with those numbers still increasing, government ministers refuse to rule out a return to some restrictions if the NHS looks under stress.
The NHS is meanwhile preparing for the biggest flu jab rollout in history, alongside the use of “booster” coronavirus jabs for the over-50s this winter.
GP practices in Croydon have already been contacting patients on their registers to invite them to make appointments for covid and flu jabs. A national advertising blitz over the autumn will urge the most vulnerable to get a third covid jab and a flu shot to try to stop hospitals being overwhelmed.
Figures published on Saturday night showed 8,085 people in hospital with covid — a six-month high. The number has gone up by 6 per cent in a week and is at its highest since early March.
It is still well below the second peak in January 2021, when 39,254 were in hospital.
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