UK is a ‘long way’ from thinking about a Covid winter lockdown, claims government scientific advisor

There have been fears a winter Covid lockdown could be on the way but a scientist has claimed the UK is “a long way from” this possibility

The UK is “a long way from” a Covid winter lockdown despite fears over rules being reimposed, an adviser to the government has said.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a scientist advising the government on Covid-19, has said that the UK government is hoping that the vaccine booster programme will help to curb the need for a winter lockdown.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Coronavirus cases in the UK have fallen 12.9% in the past week, with 30,305 cases recorded
  • Despite this, Covid-19 related deaths have risen by 6.8%, with 1,174 deaths recorded
  • The UK government has been under pressure to ensure that cases do not rise in the winter months and have created a ‘plan B’ scenario which would be implemented if cases do rise 
  • Dr Tildesley has said that despite the ‘plan B’ measures, a full lockdown is unlikely to happen this winter
  • He also joined government ministers in urging people to get their booster coronavirus vaccines alongside their flu jabs

What has been said?

Dr Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group, said: “I think we’re a long way away from thinking in those terms.

“I think that, clearly, there is a situation that, if the NHS is under severe pressure, if the number of deaths sadly starts to increase, then of course, obviously, there may be discussions around whether more restrictions need to come in.

“I would hope that, with a very successful vaccination campaign, the idea of a winter lockdown is a long way away.

“But it is certainly true that, if we don’t get good immunity across the population, there may need to be perhaps further measures taken.

“So it’s really important that we encourage people to come forward when eligible to take those booster jabs.”

The call to take up the booster shot comes alongside statistics which show that deaths have risen 6.8% in the past week.

Despite the number of Covid-19 related deaths rising in the UK, the number of positive cases has fallen 12.9% in the past week.

Dr Tildesley added: “Immunity will be starting to wane from the second jab so it is really important that that acceleration continues and hopefully we get as many people protected as possible as we move into the colder months.”

Alongside the government adviser, leading politicians have urged people to book their coronavirus booster shots in, with an early booking system now in place in England.

Boris Johnson visits a vaccine centre during a visit to Little Venice Sports Centre in London. (Credit: Getty)

Boris Johnson spoke about the importance of getting a booster jab while visiting a hospital in Hexham, Northumberland.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m here to look at what we’re doing to encourage people to get their booster jabs and that is the single most important thing that the Government can do at the present time.

“Unfortunately, what you’ve got at the moment is a situation in which the waning of the original two jabs is starting to see too many elderly people getting into hospital.

“Sadly, the jabs do wane. We’ve done 10 million booster jabs already and it’s a very effective thing.

“It’s a wonderful thing, people get 95% more protection, so I’m encouraging everybody today to go online if you’ve gone over five months, you can go online and book.”

What is the UK Government’s ‘plan b’ for Covid in winter?

The UK Government has created a ‘plan B’ to protect the public from coronavirus which includes the reinstatement of mask wearing in certain venues and vaccine passports for high-risk events and mass gatherings.

The rule of mask wearing and vaccine passports have been scrapped in England despite still being enforced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In these nations, mask-wearing is still mandatory on public transport and in other venues such as hospitality.

The UK Government may decide to u-turn on their decision to scrap these rules for England as a precaution in the winter months, with calls for the Prime Minister to already implement ‘plan B’.

However, Johnson has so far resisted these calls, instead urging those over 50 and vulnerable to come forward for their booster jabs to help control the virus.

Will you need to get an annual booster?

Dr Tildesley has said that there may be a need for the booster programme to become an annual occurrence around winter.

He said: “I think it’s possible. I remember having these sorts of discussions about nine months ago when the vaccinations were starting to roll out, that it’s possible that this virus could become endemic, so it circulates in the population every year in the way that flu does.

“It’s possible that every year we’re having to go out and get our Covid jabs in the same way a lot of people are currently getting their flu jabs.”

How do I book my booster shot?

The NHS has opened an early booking system for the booster programme for those in the key groups such as over 50s and vulnerable adults - a month ahead of the original planned launch.

There needs to be a five month gap since your second coronavirus vaccination as it will allow the booster to top-up immunity at the six-month point.

The early booking system is currently only available to those based in England. Those in Scotland will be able to book in a similar way later this month and people in Wales and Northern Ireland will be invited to book their appointment once six months has elapsed since their last shot.

To book your coronavirus booster shot, you can visit the NHS booking website and fill in your details.

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