The PM is said to have privately vowed not to impose another lockdown (Picture:Getty/Reuters)
Boris Johnson will quash fears of another winter lockdown by unveiling a ‘toolbox’ of contingency measures next week, according to reports.
The prime minister is desperate to avoid imposing more restrictions amid a rise in cases, with the number of people in hospital over 8,000 for the first time since March.
Booster jabs are expected to get the go-ahead within days, while vaccine passports to enter stadiums and nightclubs will be introduced by the end of this month.
Both policies have been trailed for weeks, but there are still no confirmed details and time is running out before a winter wave.
According to The Sun, an advertising blitz will urge the most vulnerable to get a third Covid jab and a flu shot to try to stop hospitals being overwhelmed.
The newspaper said the PM has privately vowed that another lockdown is out of the question, and wants to do everything possible to avoid this scenario.
Ministers are desperate to avoid imposing another lockdown (Picture: PA)
He is expected to stress that it is time to ‘learn to live with Covid forever’ when he unveils his plan.
However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 – which gives the government emergency powers to impose more restrictions – will be renewed as a precaution.
Ministers have refused to rule out a winter lockdown as a last resort.
But it is hoped the vaccine rollout will prevent a repeat of last December, when restrictions were imposed once again as the Kent variant spread across the country.
Number 10 also hope the biggest flu jab rollout in history will ease pressure on the NHS.
A key ally of the PM said: ‘The strength of our vaccination programme has changed how we tackle and live with this virus.
‘It’s going to be different this year.
‘We will have the booster programme to give the most vulnerable an extra shot of protection and the highest number of people yet will be offered a flu jab.’
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is looking at whether to deliver flu and Covid jabs at the same time , and whether different vaccine brands can be ‘mixed and matched’ in the booster programme.
A government source told the Financial Times: ‘We’ll be giving Pfizer to those who had AstraZeneca the first time, and AstraZeneca to those who had Pfizer.
‘It’s the best combination to get as much protection as possible.’
Some scientists have argued a booster programme is not actually needed because being doubled jabbed offers enough long-lasting immunity for most people.
But ministers are eager to get the ball rolling as hospital cases rise.
Figures published last night reveal that 8,085 Brits are in hospital with coronavirus – a six month high.
The number has shot up by 6% in a week and is at its highest since early March.
However, it is still far below the second peak in January when 39,254 were in hospital — the most since the pandemic began.
Yesterday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘very confident’ the booster programme could start this month and that recommendations of how it should work will be made ‘in days’.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already said the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are safe to use as boosters, but the JCVI are still weighing up evidence.
Mr Javid said: ‘We are heading towards our booster programme, so the news from the MHRA today is welcome.
‘But also I want to wait for the final opinion of the JCVI. I’m confident our booster programme will start later this month but I’m still awaiting the final advice.’
It comes after a member of Sage told the i newspaper that the government has been looking at a possible ‘firebreak’ lockdown during the October half term in the event that hospitalisations rates overwhelm the NHS this autumn.
Downing Street denied there was such a plan in place, but stopped short of ruling one out as a last resort option.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.