The English government has adopted new plans based on five pillars in preparation for an intensified battle with the coronavirus, in the upcoming winter months. With about 81% of the UK population vaccinated, the English government still needs to update measures to avoid its health system from being overwhelmed by increased cases of infections among the 6 million adults who are still unvaccinated.
The five pillars consist of plans to enhance the vaccination programme, with vaccines offered to 12 to 15-year-olds and a third dose for over-50s. Data from the UK suggests that protection provided by the vaccines (Pfizer or AstraZeneca) wanes within six months. It remains unclear of the impact of the weakened protection of the vaccine on cases of severe disease.
Under its second pillar, persons who have been tested positive must quarantine by law for 10 days, and the same requirement for those over-18s not double-vaccinated, who have been in contact with a positive case.
A negative PCR test is required no older than 3 days upon arrival at the UK borders and further testing within a few days of arrival or mandatory hotel quarantine for those coming from high-risk areas, classified as “red list” form part of the government’s third pillar.
The fourth pillar of the plan is the mandatory vaccination of frontline health and social care staff.
The fifth pillar is a reinforcement of the messaging that calls for handwashing, mask-wearing in public spaces, and encouraging businesses to have staff work from home. UK studies indicate that working from home as being a significant contributory factor in keeping the viral spread under control.
For us in Saint Lucia, it would provide some comfort and reassurance that the government is doing all that it can if more proactive measures were being considered, rather than what appears to be a reactionary approach to the crisis we are currently facing. For a start, we should be going out in the communities to do more testing of individuals and not just testing those turning up with symptoms, so as to get a better grasp of the main sources of spread and design appropriate responses to contain them.