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Autumn and Winter government COVID plan

View profile for Chloe Pereira
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On 14 September the government posted an updated plan for managing covid throughout the upcoming autumn/winter seasons.

In it, it reports that “data continues to show that the link between cases, hospitalisations, and deaths has weakened significantly since the start of the pandemic. In England, the number of deaths and hospital admissions due to COVID-19 has remained relatively stable over the last month, and although hospital admissions and deaths sadly increased at the beginning of the summer, they have remained far below the levels in either of the previous waves”.

Plan A

The government’s aim is to sustain the progress made and ensure the NHS doesn’t suffer from the pressures it did in 2020. Plan A is made up of a combination of methods to achieve these aims which, for businesses, include:

  • Providing regularly updated Working Safely guidance on how employer can reduce risk in the workplace – employers should consider this when carrying out risk assessments and putting in place safety measures
  • Ensuring that businesses do not ask or allow employees to go to work in they are meant to be self-isolating
  • Encouraging businesses to:
    • Ask employees to stay at home if they feel unwell
    • Ensure there is adequate fresh air – identify poorly ventilated areas by using a CO2 monitor and improve them
    • Provide hand sanitiser and clean heavy touch areas regularly
    • Display an NHS QR code poster for customers to check in
    • Consider using the NHS Covid pass

Employers will already be familiar with most, if not all, of these measures and should continue to monitor the latest Working Safely guidance to make sure you are taking the minimum recommended steps.

Plan B

This winter could potentially be a challenging one – the pandemic can change its course unexpectedly, and we could have an upsurge in the flu following a quiet year for it in 2020. If the data shows the NHS could be overwhelmed, Plan B may be launched which involves considering the following measures:

  1. Communicating the risk level has increased and encouraging more cautious behaviours
  2. Introducing mandatory vaccine only covid status certification in certain settings (for example, in nightclubs)
  3. Re-introducing mandatory face coverings in certain settings (e.g. on public transport)
  4. Potentially asking people to work from home again, if they can

The last of the Plan B measures will clearly have the biggest impact on employers – particularly those who are working hard to re-introduce people back to the workplace. SAGE has advised that working from home is one of the most effective measures at reducing contacts – having a big impact on transmission and the fated R number. Whilst we all want to be optimistic, and the government describes this measure as a last resort, employers should prepare for the worst, just in case.