No more national lockdowns: PM prepares to unveil Covid-19 winter plan

12 September 2021, 21:47 | Updated: 13 September 2021, 10:28

Thérèse Coffey on vaccine passports

By Daisy Stephens

The Prime Minister is set to scrap a number of Covid-19 measures in the coming weeks as part of the plan to tackle the virus this winter, including vaccine passports and some elements of the Coronavirus Act.

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Boris Johnson is expected to rip up the existing system of Covid rules and bring in new measures for winter. Needless laws will be dumped and the travel traffic light system for travel is expected to be scrapped. Booster jabs and jabs for kids are set to be introduced in an effort to halt the need for any further national lockdowns.

Working from home, mandatory masks and vaccine passports are measures that are set to be held back for possible use if hospital admissions rise.

Plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and large events in England from the end of September have been scrapped.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said they remain a "potential option" for the future, but the current plan to introduce them for venues won't go ahead.

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'If this is the death of vaccine passports then I'm delighted.'

As well as vaccine passports, Mr Johnson is also set to announce plans to lose some parts of the Coronavirus Act, which enables the Government to do things like close schools and limit social gatherings in response to Covid-19.

Mr Johnson said the measures, which also include the power to shut down the economy, were "necessary but intrusive" and he was "determined" not to maintain powers that were no longer needed.

"Thanks to the efforts of the public, the NHS and our phenomenal vaccination programme, we reached Step 4 in our road map and life has returned to a sense of normality," said the Prime Minister.

"These extraordinary times required necessary but intrusive measures."

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"But I'm determined to get rid of any powers we no longer need because of our vaccine defences."

Boris Johnson is expected to announce the plans at a press conference next week.

The powers he will likely repeal include those allowing the closure of the economy, the imposing of restrictions on events and gatherings, temporary closure of schools, and powers to detain infectious people.

A number of other powers under the Act will be kept for now, such as giving statutory sick pay to those isolating from day one, and the power to direct schools to reopen if they close against Government advice.

It will also still be a legal requirement to isolate if you test positive for coronavirus.

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Also to be scrapped are costly Covid tests for double-jabbed Brits returning from abroad, according to one newspaper.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Brits returning to the country who currently have to pay for expensive PCR tests could soon be able to take lateral flow tests instead.

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These types of test are much cheaper than PCR tests, and the result comes back much quicker.

Boris Johnson is reportedly due to discuss the idea with the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, health secretary Sajid Javid and Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, this week.

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The Government’s plans have been welcomed by many.

Paul Charles, boss of The PC Agency travel firm, told the Mail on Sunday that scrapping PCR tests for double-jabbed tourists would be "a significant vote-winner with consumers and the industry".

He added: "It’s exactly what we’ve been calling for because these tests have been expensive and too confusing."

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said dropping plans to introduce vaccine passports at nightclubs and events was "very good news".

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However, the Government has also fallen under heavy criticism, not least for changing their mind and causing "confusion" for businesses.

"The Conservatives have needlessly sown confusion among businesses for months by threatening to introduce Covid passports, and will not be forgiven for it," said Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael.

There are also concerns about the powers that remain with the Government, with Mr Carmichael saying the Government must "see sense and scrap the unnecessary and draconian Coronavirus Act altogether".

The changes to the Coronavirus Act are set to be confirmed within days, whilst the plans to scrap post-travel PCR tests for double-jabbed people returning from abroad are reportedly being discussed this coming week.

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