UK prime minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday outline his plan for dealing with coronavirus in Britain during the winter without reintroducing lockdowns or other severe restrictions.
The announcement follows a decision by Britain’s chief medical officers to offer children aged 12 to 15 a coronavirus vaccine but to leave the choice of whether to accept it up to them rather than their parents.
“What we are not trying to do is say to children ‘you must, must, must, must, must’ but what we are saying is we think – on balance – the benefits both at an individual level and in terms of wider indirect benefits to education and, through that, to public health, are in favour,” England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a press conference in Downing Street.
Prof Whitty denied that there was any conflict between Monday’s decision to offer the vaccine to everyone over 12 and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) advice that the benefit to young teenagers was insufficient to recommend it.
“Our view, which is a view of the great majority of doctors and public health professionals, is that these two are not in conflict. What JCVI has said is there is a marginal advantage but by their assessment that was not sufficient by their ordinary standards to recommend it, and quite appropriately they’ve kept to their independent view. They suggested further things and what we’ve done is we’ve added in some wider considerations as JCVI has suggested,” he said.
“The Conservatives’ chaotic mismanagement of children’s education has kept children out of class for 115 days. The government must finally listen to Labour, parents, teachers and scientific advisers to get proper ventilation and Covid secure measures in place to keep children learning together in class,” she said.
Britain, which had a head start on its neighbours in coronavirus vaccination earlier this year, has slipped behind more recently as it has dragged its feet over vaccinating younger cohorts. Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that the government had dropped plans to introduce vaccine passports for entry to nightclubs and mass events at the end of this month.
Almost all legal restrictions related to coronavirus were lifted in England in July, including the requirement to wear face masks in public places. Downing Street said on Monday that further lockdowns would only be considered as a last resort.
“We are in a very different place than where we were previously when other lockdowns were introduced, thanks to the success of our vaccine programme and other things like therapeutics treatments for coronavirus. We would only ever consider those sort of measures as a last resort and we will set out in more detail tomorrow what our approach will be should we see a significant increase in cases,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.
Daily coronavirus cases in Britain fell by a quarter over the past week, with 30,825 new cases reported on Monday. But 61 deaths were reported, more than a third above last Monday’s figure of 46.