September 17, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

This week, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the plan for getting England through the approaching winter in terms of managing COVID-19.

Last autumn and winter, the country underwent several lockdowns and saw deaths of over 1,000 per day for most of January.

After the Government removed most legal COVID-19 restrictions in July – including capacity limits and mask-wearing – and in August, removed even the requirement for vaccinated close contacts to isolate, the country will be largely relying on a booster shot program for those over 50, as well as those in close contact with vulnerable people, to keep cases from getting out of control in the months ahead. There will also be public health messaging about how to stay safe and encouragement for the approximately five million eligible people who have yet to do so to get vaccinated.

However, even after scrapping the initiative less than a week ago, vaccine passports – presumably for crowded spaces, including events – are part of potential measures in Plan B for autumn and winter, to be enacted should booster shots, testing, tracing and isolating and messaging not be enough to keep the hospital system from being overwhelmed. Other potential measures include mask-wearing in indoor settings and asking people to work from home again.

Considering cases were almost nine times lower in the UK going into the colder months last year and Johnson was adamant then about not going into lockdown, whatever happens over the next half a year in the UK could provide lessons for Australia about what to do – or not do – in winter with a highly vaccinated population.