Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected on Tuesday to outline a winter coronavirus strategy for England designed to prevent any new surge in cases from overwhelming the National Health Service, while trying to avoid another lockdown.
The government is expected to give more detail about its plans to roll out booster shots for those whose immunity from vaccination may be waning and to say what measures could be used to respond to a potential spike in cases.
British officials are looking to avoid the type of lockdowns that for months blocked people from seeing family and friends even in most outdoor settings, while also preventing another catastrophic winter surge like the one that pummeled the country last year.
The government’s plans could include reintroducing a requirement to wear face coverings in indoor spaces or on public transportation, or advising people to work from home when possible.
On Sunday the government said it would not proceed with a vaccine passport plan that would have forced nightclubs and some other venues in England to check the status of those trying to enter. But it has kept open the option of reviving the strategy should the situation deteriorate.
The government is also considering whether a vaccine booster shot could be “co-administered,” alongside flu shots, for older adults, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC. He all but ruled out another round of severe restrictions, saying that although it’s not off the table, “I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown.”
Experts believe Mr. Johnson is unlikely to rule out another lockdown completely, presenting it as a last resort that would be considered only if England faces a new and highly transmissible variant. Over the past year, Mr. Johnson has often faced pressure from a vocal group of lawmakers in the libertarian wing of his Conservative Party who campaigned for the scrapping of coronavirus rules.
In July, Mr. Johnson largely gave them what they wanted, easing most legal coronavirus restrictions on what the tabloid media called “freedom day.”
Britain is now averaging about 30,000 new coronavirus cases and about 1,000 hospital admissions each day, according to government data. And while that is significantly fewer than the 100,000 cases predicted by some experts, government officials know that another surge is possible as children return to school and the weather worsens weather through the fall and winter.
On Monday, British health officials approved a mass coronavirus vaccination program for children aged 12 to 15, despite the reservations of some medical experts who questioned whether young people would benefit significantly from the shots.
The move, announced by the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, follows weeks of uncertainty about whether children in that age group would be allowed to receive the shots.
President Biden will use the upcoming gathering of the United Nations General Assembly to set new targets for a global coronavirus vaccination campaign, including having 70 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated one year from now, according to draft documents prepared by the White House.
Mr. Biden is convening a virtual global Covid-19 summit next week, when heads of state gather for the annual General Assembly meeting. Invitations to world leaders were sent out last week, according to one person familiar with the planning. Another round of invitations to stakeholders went out on Monday by email.
The invitation, obtained by The New York Times, told participants that Mr. Biden would “call on chiefs of state, heads of government and international organizations, business, philanthropic, and nongovernmental leaders to come together to commit to ending the Covid-19 pandemic.” It was accompanied by a draft detailing specific targets necessary to achieve that goal.
The 70 percent target “is ambitious but consistent with existing targets,” the draft document said. In June, the heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization set a target of having 60 percent of the world’s population vaccinated by the middle of 2022.
The draft also calls for countries “with relevant capabilities” to either purchase or donate one billion additional doses of coronavirus vaccines, beyond the two billion that have already been pledged by wealthy nations; and for world leaders to ensure that $3 billion is made available in 2021 and $7 billion in 2022 in financing “for vaccine readiness and administration, combating hesitancy, and procuring ancillary supplies.”
Mr. Biden has come under fierce criticism from advocates and public health experts who say he is not living up to his pledge to make the United States the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world. Expanding global vaccination efforts is necessary to protect not only the world, but the national security and health and safety of Americans.
Pressure is building as the United Nations meeting draws near. On Tuesday, two House Democrats — Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut — are planning to host a news conference to call on Mr. Biden to unveil a global plan to end the pandemic, including a plan to transfer vaccine technology from pharmaceutical manufacturers to other vaccine makers around the world, and to ramp up manufacturing capacity.
Peter Maybarduk, who directs Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said the draft looks promising but does not go far enough. His group has a plan calling for the government to invest $25 billion in developing regional manufacturing hubs around the world, which it says would produce enough vaccine for low- and middle-income countries in a year.
“It’s not asking very much of the private sector,” Mr. Maybarduk said. “It is trying to unify commitments rather than using the very significant power of the U.S. government to move very significant manufacturing capacity on its own. That still leaves tools unused. It’s not being the vaccine arsenal for the world.”