We all want to avoid another lockdown. We need sustainable public health interventions that will keep Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths at an acceptable level, and get us through the winter. What could this mean in practice?
1. The most important public health intervention to control Covid-19 is our vaccination programme. This has slowed down in recent months. Also, in effect, it has split into four distinct programmes:
– a programme aimed at people 16 and over. This has almost stopped, with around 10% of adults in the UK still unvaccinated (higher in London).
– a third primary dose programme aimed at people with weak immune systems. This has been poorly planned and implemented by NHS England and has caused a lot of confusion.
– a booster dose programme. This is going OK but could be speeded up to provide more protection for key groups of people before the full onset of winter.
– a programme for 12-15 year olds. This has got off to a very slow start in England.
Speeding up all these vaccination programmes is essential and is our best defence against Covid-19.
2. Try to reduce social contacts; for example, by asking staff to work from home where possible. The government has been encouraging people to “get back into the office” but I think we should be cautious over the winter.
3. Face masks. The government needs to reconsider its policy. In my view, face masks should be required in settings such as shops and public transport.
4. Vaccine mandates / vaccine passports / negative test results. Many European countries require these for entry to higher risk settings such as nightclubs, bars and indoor events. No vaccine is 100% effective but the fact is that an unvaccinated person is much more likely to become infected and transmit infection to others than a vaccinated person. The government has flipped-flopped on this policy (currently against) but have said they may reconsider.
Effective measures now can help bring Covid-19 under control, protect public health, keep pressures on the NHS manageable, and get us through the Winter.