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Winter is coming…
Sensemaker audio

Winter is coming…

Winter is coming…

With Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths are on the rise, we were all wondering what the government’s plan was going to be for a seemingly inevitable winter wave. Well, on Tuesday Boris Johnson revealed his plans for managing Covid-19 over the next few months. In today’s Sensemaker we ask: will their plan work?


Transcript

Hi, I’m Claudia and this is the Sensemaker.

One story, everyday, to make sense of the world.

Today, the government announced its winter plan for managing the covid19 pandemic. But the question on all our minds, remembering the long dark lockdown winter of last year is, will it work?  

***

Since July things have seemed almost normal. 

Festivals are back. Theatres are open. Holidays abroad are possible again. But as autumn draws in, we’re all wondering what the next few months will look like in terms of Covid19.

The memory of last winter is still pretty fresh in a lot of people’s minds. 

The broken promises: 

We don’t want to ban Christmas, to cancel it, and I think that would be frankly inhuman

The Guardian

 

I have no doubt that people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible and that we’ll be able to get things open before Christmas as well.

The Telegraph

The u-turns: 

Those living in tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas. The Christmas rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas day only rather than the five days as previously set out.

LBC

If we were to look only at numbers, right now, covid cases in the UK are higher than they were last Christmas, when Boris Johnson ordered the third national lockdown. Although it is important to point out that hospitalisations are nowhere near those levels.    

So it’s no surprise that as autumn begins and children go back to school, temperatures drop,  and people start spending more time indoors, worries about covid running rampant are resurfacing.

But yesterday Boris Johnson tried to calm those concerns: he announced the government’s winter plan for managing covid19 in England. 

As press conferences go, it was a pretty normal one, except for one surreal moment at the end when British politics collided with the world of pop music.

Journalist: One of the world’s biggest female celebrities, Nicki Minaj has today publicly linked the vaccines to impotence, what would you say to that?

Boris Johnson: Just on that Steve, I’m not familiar with the works of Nicki Minaj as I probably should be but i am familiar with with Nikki Kanani a superstar GP of Bexley who’s appeared many times before you, who who will tell you that vaccines are wonderful and everybody should get them.

Sky

So – beyond the feud between Nicki Minaj and Boris Johnson – what is the government’s plan for the winter and will it work?

***

Boris Johnson has set out two plans for autumn and winter 2021. 

There’s plan A, which is essentially to keep going as we are and hope for the best: 

We will continue to offer testing, we will continue to urge everyone to be sensible, to be responsible – wash your hands, use ventilation, consider wearing a face covering in crowded places with people that you don’t know, stay at home if you feel unwell, download and use the app.

BBC

So basically what we’re looking at is a continuation of test and trace, getting to those who are still unvaccinated, including 12- to 15-year-olds, and offering boosters to those who need it. 

But in case that doesn’t work there is a plan B.  

If the NHS starts to struggle with covid cases again then the prime minister has an arsenal of restrictions that he says he’s willing to put in place, like mask mandates, work from home guidance, and, perhaps most controversially, vaccine passports for mass events. 

But the prime minister is optimistic it won’t come to that.

The thing I would stress about Plan B is that it contains a number of different shots in the locker and you wouldn’t necessarily play them all at once, far from it.

BBC

The government wants to hold off on issuing restrictions for as long as possible. 

Which is maybe why Boris Johnson didn’t really specify what the threshold would be to trigger Plan B.

But the main question in everyone’s mind is: will there be another lockdown? 

Well, the short answer is, it’s unlikely. 

Even though at face value covid numbers aren’t looking good at the moment, cases, deaths and hospitalisations are on the rise, it’s important that we see this data within a wider context.  

We aren’t in the same place we were this time last year. 

The UK has very high levels of vaccines, just over the course of that vaccine program it’s going higher and higher and you can see let’s just look at that UK line, it’s higher than most other countries around the world when it comes to the proportion of people who have got two vaccinations so that line is very high.

Sky

Almost 90 per cent of the UK population aged over 16 has received a first dose of the vaccine, and over 80 per cent have received both doses.

And analysis by Public Health England indicates that almost 25 million infections and over 112,000 deaths were prevented because so many people have been jabbed.

But I did say it’s unlikely because the government has refused to definitively rule out another lockdown.

Boris Johnson might be ideologically opposed to another lockdown, but realistically he wants to keep it in his back pocket as a last resort, to wield if absolutely necessary, without being accused of backtracking. 

And that’s what he’s given himself the room to do. 

So where does this leave the rest of us? 

*** 

The government’s winter plan shows a change in Boris Johnson’s approach to the pandemic. 

Instead of over-promising like he did last year, he’s taken a deliberately vague path so even if things change he can’t be accused of u-turning.

So what do we know for sure about Boris Johnson’s winter plan?

Well, nothing’s off the table. 

Experts are warning that things could quickly get out of hand if the government delays putting restrictions in place. 

No one knows what the next few months will look like: we could have a winter of mandatory masks and social distancing or we could be in some kind of lockdown. 

We’ll just have to wait and see if the government’s plans stack up in the face of a winter wave.  

Today’s episode was written by Nimo Omer and produced by Ella Hill.