Boris Johnson’s Covid ‘winter plan’ to avoid lockdowns was backed by Professor Neil Ferguson today – as experts warned the UK must learn to ‘accept’ 100 deaths a day.
The PM is set to unveil his blueprint for coping with an expected seasonal surge tomorrow, relying on extra jabs – starting with the elderly and most-vulnerable – to steer the country clear of any further shutdowns. Medics are also expected to give the go ahead for 12-15 year olds to be vaccinated.
Mr Johnson is shelving the idea of Covid passports for nightclubs and major events in the face of Tory fury – although they will be kept ‘in reserve’ – and travel restrictions will also be overhauled to ditch the traffic light system and costly PCR tests for travellers.
Many of the draconian powers taken by the government at the start of the crisis will also be scrapped as the premier tries to restore his libertarian credentials.
However, masks and ordering people to work from home will be kept in the ‘toolbox’ of measures that can be deployed.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof Ferguson said the level of immunity now present in the UK population meant that tackling a surge in transmission might not ‘require full lockdown’.
He said the effect of not going ahead with vaccine passports in England – although they are being introduced in Scotland from October 1 – ‘won’t be huge’.
Meanwhile, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and director of the Wellcome Trust, has urged an ‘honest debate’ about the trade-offs between opening up society and victims of the disease.
‘Politicians across the world are sort of pretending you can have your cake and eat it: ‘You can have zero deaths, no control measures, vaccinate if you want to or not vaccinate and it will all end.’ I just don’t think that’s realistic,’
he reportedly told the German podcast Pandemia.
‘I think [in the UK] around a hundred deaths a day, throughout the year, 30,000 deaths a year, in the current situation with the current vaccines, current treatments, current capacity within the system, I think is a level that would have to in the end be acceptable.’
A winter plan to help England keep on top of Covid this winter is set to be revealed by Boris Johnson (pictured) tomorrow. Prof Neil Ferguson said the level of immunity now present in the UK population meant that tackling a surge in transmission might not ‘require full lockdown’
Boris Johnson’s main weapon in his war on lockdowns will be an autumn booster jab for adults, starting with the elderly and most vulnerable
Children aged 12-15 will also be offered a single dose of the Covid vaccine – pending approval from experts – according to reports
While some measures will be put in place to limit the spread of Covid this winter, travel restrictions such as the Green and Amber list will be slashed
The Government will also drop its requirement for double-jabbed Britons to take a PCR test on their return
Other measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing, could be brought back if cases rise
Work from home rules will be kept in reserve if hospital admissions start to rise in winter – when respiratory illnesses tend to spread quicker
Plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and major events were sensationally scrapped yesterday – much to the delight of hospitality chiefs – but they could be brought back
The Prime Minister is due to set out his proposals at a press conference later today, when he will make clear this week he is ‘dead set’ against another national lockdown
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said yesterday that vaccine passports would not be introduced this month, after a revolt by Tory MPs and business leaders.
They do however remain in the Government’s arsenal for dealing with spikes in the Covid case rate that would put the NHS under pressure as winter unfolds – along with potential returns of working from home and mandatory mask wearing.
Ministers are said to think the evidence means these plans are sufficient to all-but rule out any national lockdowns – which Mr Johnson is said to be ‘dead set’ against.
Mr Javid said yesterday that he was ‘not anticipating’ any more lockdowns, saying ‘I just don’t see how we get to another one (lockdown).’
But he left the door open for the toughest of restrictions, saying it would be ‘irresponsible to take everything off the table’.
However, in an early glimmer of hope for the holiday season, the Health Secretary suggested that families would be able to spend Christmas together this year – after celebrations were dramatically cut short in 2020 due to the spread of the Kent variant.
The announcements – set to be unveiled at a press conference tomorrow and to MPs before the Commons rises on Wednesday – come after a week of frenzied speculation about the conditions that would be imposed on Britons as the country ‘lives with Covid’ this winter.
The plan will warn that vaccine passports could be required if the NHS faces being overwhelmed.
It will set out details of when and how passports could be introduced, and will warn that other restrictions, such as mandatory mask-wearing, may have to be reintroduced if the pandemic continues.
Changes such as compulsory home working and reintroducing social-distancing are not being ruled out.
PCR tests for returning double-jabbed travellers set to be scrapped ‘as soon as possible’
Rip-off PCR tests for returning double-jabbed travellers are to be scrapped ‘as soon as possible’.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it would be wrong to keep the requirement for a ‘second longer than is absolutely necessary’. The move will slash the cost of a family holiday by hundreds of pounds. PCR tests can cost more than £100 each.
The decision could be made by the end of the week, although it is not expected to be part of Boris Johnson’s announcement tomorrow about his winter Covid plan.
Mr Javid told Sky News yesterday: ‘We still want to remain very cautious. When it comes to travel, there are some rules that are going to have to remain in place.
‘But the PCR test required on your return from certain countries, I want to try and get rid of that as soon as I possibly can.
‘I’ve asked officials that the moment we can, let’s get rid of these intrusions. We shouldn’t be keeping anything like that for a second longer than absolutely necessary.’
Mr Javid also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the Government should not be introducing virus measures ‘for the sake of it’.
It was unclear last night how decisions would be made to reimpose restrictions.
But, according to the Telegraph, Mr Johnson will make clear this week he is ‘dead set’ against another national lockdown.
He will instead urge people to ‘learn to live with Covid’, the paper reports.
According to the Sun, Mr Johnson will rely on the Covid vaccine to limit the spread of Covid.
Third doses of the jab are to be rolled out in autumn in a similar way to the first vaccine drive – starting with the most elderly and vulnerable.
The Government will also launch a massive ‘flu shot blitz’ which will be supported by a large-scale advertising campaign urging people to get both jabs, the Sun adds.
Children aged 12-15 will also be offered a single Covid shot, pending approval from scientific advisers, the Telegraph reports.
While national measures will also be set out, changes to international travel are also expected.
The travel traffic lights system is due to be scrapped, according to the Telegraph, with just a ‘red list’ for the worst Covid-hit countries kept in its place.
The number of countries on the red list will also be drastically reduced, the paper adds.
And, according to the Telegraph, PCR tests will not be required for fully vaccinated travellers.
It comes as yesterday, another 29,173 cases were recorded, as well as 56 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
A senior government source told The Telegraph of the argument Mr Johnson would make: ‘This is the new normal. We need to learn to live with Covid.
‘The vaccines are a wall of defence. The autumn and the winter do offer some uncertainty, but the Prime Minister is dead set against another lockdown.’
But while the changes will come as a positive for some, others have urged the Government to limit the number of Covid rules this winter.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, meanwhile said that while he was pleased with the news that vaccine passports would be scrapped, he wanted a permanent end to any plans for such a scheme.
Yesterday he tweeted: ‘I welcome Savid Javid confirming that vaccine passports are not going ahead now.
Mark Harper (pictured left), chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, meanwhile said the end of vaccine passports should be permanent, tweeting: ‘I welcome Savid Javid (pictured right) confirming that vaccine passports are not going ahead now.’
Britain’s Covid outbreak shrank today, with cases falling by 21 per cent while the number of deaths also declined
Covid jabs for children could begin in schools within days
Covid jabs for children could begin in schools in just nine days.
The UK’s four chief medical officers have been preparing advice for ministers on whether children aged 12 to 15 should be vaccinated.
The jabs could begin on September 22 after an announcement this week, according to The Observer.
‘I’m pleased he has listened to the compelling case against them. They shouldn’t be kept in reserve. They are pointless, damaging and discriminatory.’
Vaccine passports allow people access to venues if they have had both Covid jabs. They will be introduced in Scotland for clubs and large venues next month.
In a national research programme in April, revellers were allowed into clubs so data could be gathered on how events could be permitted to reopen safely.
But following a Tory backlash against vaccine passports, Mr Javid said yesterday the idea had been shelved for England.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers to do what is just an everyday activity.
‘We’ve looked at it properly, and whilst we should keep it in reserve, I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.’
He said that while he was ‘not anticipating’ any more lockdowns, it would be ‘irresponsible to take everything off the table’.
His announcement on the passports came a week after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the same show the end of September was the right time to start the vaccine passport scheme for sites with large crowds.
Mr Javid (pictured on the Marr show today) vowed Christmas will not be cancelled this year as he insisted ministers are not expecting ‘any more lockdowns’
Travellers from red list countries forced into quarantine hotels suing Government for alleged human rights breach
Travellers from red list countries who have been forced to quarantine in UK hotels are suing for up to £200million for an alleged breach of human rights.
Lawyers claim those who were fully vaccinated and later tested negative for Covid were ‘unlawfully deprived of their liberty’.
They want the Government to refund fees of around £2,000 per person for double-jabbed and Covid-negative travellers and pay out compensation.
Around 100,000 people who arrived from red list countries have been forced to quarantine in hotels for ten days since February.
Many have complained of ‘prison-like’ conditions. Tom Goodhead, of law firm PGMBM, which is spearheading the action, said: ‘The Government hasn’t yet realised that this policy is a fundamental breach of people’s human rights. Law-abiding citizens who have been double-vaccinated should be free from quarantine.
‘The idea that they need to pay for the privilege of their own imprisonment is outrageous.’
He said other European countries had refused to introduce hotel quarantine measures over human rights concerns.
Red list travellers have to take tests on day two and day eight of their hotel quarantine.
The claim will be lodged in the High Court in London today.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Days ago, the vaccine minister stood before Parliament to confirm the introduction of Covid passports – now they’ve been scrapped.
‘This is the culmination of a summer of chaos from ministers. They need to get a grip before winter.’
Mr Javid told Times Radio the passports were ‘a huge intrusion into people’s lives’, adding: ‘We don’t think it is necessary at this point.
‘We’re keeping it in reserve, but we’re not going to go ahead.’
The hospitality sector welcomed the news that the passports will not be introduced in England.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: ‘We hope businesses will be able to plan for the future with some degree of certainty… and rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic.’
He added that the Government had ‘grossly underestimated some logistical and ethical challenges’.
Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester and co-founder of the Parklife festival, said the plans were ‘untenable and illogical’ and aspects were ‘discriminatory and legally questionable’.
He added: ‘We can now move forward without vague regulations.’
It comes as Britain’s Covid outbreak shrank on Sunday, with cases falling by 21 per cent while the number of deaths also declined.
Department of Health figures show 29,173 daily cases were recorded across the UK today, compared to 37,011 last week – a reduction of more than a fifth – while Covid deaths fell from 68 to 56.
In Scotland, more than 1,000 Covid patients are in hospital and 5,912 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours.
Though the latest figures north of the border show no deaths, the Scottish Government says registry offices are generally closed at weekends.
Meanwhile, six further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid in Northern Ireland were registered – while another 1,031 positive cases of the virus were also confirmed in the region.
Universities branded ‘mega ripe-off’ after announcing plans to continue remote lectures despite charging annual fees of £9,250
By Eleanor Harding and Julie Henry for the Daily Mail
Universities were yesterday branded a ‘mega rip-off’ after announcing a third academic year of remote lectures despite charging annual fees of £9,250.
Nineteen of the 24 Russell Group of leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, said a portion of learning would remain online in the new term.
Covid restrictions have been scrapped but some lectures will still be delivered remotely, depriving youngsters of face-to-face contact with lecturers and fellow students.
Some Freshers are also having to live more than an hour from campus or are under pressure to defer places because of accommodation shortages.
Nineteen of the 24 Russell Group of leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, said a portion of learning would remain online in the new term
Last night, campaigners called for tuition fee refunds and urged teenagers to boycott online-heavy courses.
It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned last week there is ‘no excuse’ to use online learning as a cost-cutting measure.
A Mail survey has found most of the Russell Group are bringing back face-to-face learning, but offering a ‘blended’ model where some tuition stays online.
For some institutions, it means large lectures – a staple of campus life – are being delivered remotely.
At University College London, students have been told: ‘Most small group teaching – including seminars, workshops, laboratory and studio practicals – will be in person and most of your lecture-based large group teaching will be online.’
Warwick University plans to deliver ‘most seminars in-person on campus…and to deliver lectures online’ while Exeter said ‘some lecture-based teaching sessions may move online as our students found that this was more inclusive than traditional lectures’.
Leeds also plans a mix of face-to-face and online teaching, with large lectures delivered remotely.
Meanwhile, Oxford said ‘most’ teaching would be ‘in-person’ but would be ‘enhanced’ by online tuition in ‘some instances’.
Cambridge said while ‘small-group teaching’ and ‘as many lectures as possible’ would be in-person, web sessions would be used ‘where there is a strong reason’.
Cambridge said while ‘small-group teaching’ and ‘as many lectures as possible’ would be in-person, web sessions would be used ‘where there is a strong reason’
However, Southampton stressed it was delivering all its teaching ‘in-person and on campus’ and Birmingham said ‘lectures will typically go ahead in person in the normal way’.
Mr Williamson warned vice-chancellors last week that students should be taught ‘in-person and alongside other students’.
He insisted: ‘I do not expect to see online learning used as a cost-cutting measure’.
Last night, former Government adviser Chris McGovern claimed: ‘Universities are trawling them in, grabbing their fees and then forgetting that they have a responsibility to deliver a good education.
‘It’s a brass-necked, mega rip-off. The Consumer Rights Act needs to be extended to provide refunds for any shoddy and second rate educational provision by universities.’
Remote learning first emerged in March last year during the national lockdown, with students only allowed back to campuses in full this summer.
Many universities believe it is necessary to keep some learning online in case the pandemic takes off again. Others say online learning has been proved to benefit students.
Meanwhile, several universities are finding it difficult to find accommodation for all the students they accepted this year.
Bristol recently told new students they might have to live in Bath – more than an hour away – due to local halls being full.