THE Prime Minister announced his Winter plan to keep Covid at bay yesterday.
Britain is currently in a good position in the fight against the virus – with deaths relatively low and the vaccines working, despite cases remaining high.
But there are a number of factors – or “pivot points” – that could see the country plunged back into lockdown, with stricter restrictions brought back in.
As we move into the cooler months, there are three key things that will make or break the PM’s plan to keep rules as lax as they are…
The Government laid out it’s Plan A, which largely relies on the vaccines.
Within days children over 12 can now get one dose of a Covid vaccine, and the rollout of booster jabs for over-50s is set to begin.
It is hoped this will be enough to keep the lid on this wave of the pandemic over the winter months.
But Plan B will be swiftly deployed if the NHS becomes overwhelmed by pressures again.
It’s not clear exactly what the criteria is for this plan, and how bad things would have to get to move to it, however it would likely simply be the number of Covid inpatients increasing rapidly.
Every winter the NHS struggles with the usual respiratory illnesses, but this year they could bring hospitals to capacity much quicker.
Last winter, flu and other viruses were largely kept down due to everyone being in lockdown and Covid being the dominant virus spreading around the country.
But this year, we will have been mingling much more freely with no social distancing in the run up to – and throughout – winter.
This means medics will be faced with both Covid and the classic winter illnesses, which will be back with a bang.
At the moment 7 per cent of hospital beds are filled with Covid patients, having risen by a fifth in six weeks.
It there is no sudden increase and the pattern continues to slowly rise or remain level, while it will inevitably put pressure on the NHS, it shouldn’t be enough to overwhelm and require lockdown.
Uncertainty over Covid infections
Covid cases are relatively high at the moment still – but haven’t risen despite social distancing being scrapped and a highly contagious variant.
Schools are now back and many people have returned to the office.
People are allowed to hug, don’t have to legally wear masks and aren’t required to keep their distances anymore.
It isn’t clear what might happen now that cooler weather is on the way and people will mingle more indoors – creating prime spreading environments.
All of these changes combined could now see infections start to rise, which would be a problem.
However the vaccines are very successful at preventing serious illness, and the majority of the country has now got immunity from the jabs.
But for older people who got their doses at the beginning of the year, immunity is now waning.
And kids, who are less likely to be seriously ill, but good at spreading the virus, are not yet vaccinated – however they will soon be able to get their shot.
The key group to get protected, however, is the five million adults who have yet to have a single dose of vaccine.
As if immunity can’t keep the spread of infections down, and then increases hospital admissions, Plan B will have to be deployed.
While Covid is the main concern, normal winter viruses are expected to make a return.
Our immunity will be lower to viruses like flu, due to not having been exposed much over the past year.
Some children won’t have developed any immunity at all, with a virus called RSV already circulating at high levels.
It is the leading cause of under-fives being admitted to hospital for respiratory illnesses.
If flu follows the same pattern, the number of patients going onto wards with respiratory viruses could top Covid, more than 750-a-day.
Prof Dame Anne Johnson, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, told the BBC conditions are “ripe” for this.
She said the Government needs to find a way to “maximise risk reduction while minimising the impacts on our lives”.
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