Will the vet see to you?

Here we are facing September – return to work and school?

Back on 4th May tech firm Onfido was in talks with government about a system to help Britons return to work. Tech firms were in talks with ministers about creating health passports to help Britons return safely to work using coronavirus testing and facial recognition.

Facial biometrics can be used to help provide a digital certificate – sometimes known as an immunity passport – proving which workers have had Covid-19, as a possible way of easing the impact on the economy and businesses from ongoing physical distancing even after current lockdown measures are eased.

The UK-based firm Onfido, which specialises in verifying people’s identities using facial biometrics, had by May delivered detailed plans to the government and is involved in a number of conversations about what could be rolled out across the country, it is understood.

Its proposals, which have reached pilot stages in other countries, could be executed within months, it says. The firm could use antibody tests – proving whether someone has had the virus – or antigen tests, which show current infections. Using an app, you would take a photo of your face and of your government-approved ID. Next you get an antigen or antibody test to establish whether you have had coronavirus and are immune. At work you open the app at reception and take a picture of your face. This generates a QR code. This is scanned by the receptionist and confirms whether you have immunity or not. If your ID matches and you have immunity, you can enter the workplace.*

So continuing with the workplace first

Back on 19th August, Matt Hancock faced criticism after telling workers to get back to their offices because the risk of catching coronavirus there is minimal. He was also criticised for claiming that there is a 'relatively low' risk of catching Covid-19 at work... as experts suggest it might be because most people haven't been IN offices for months!!**

By the 28th August, the government has backed away from suggestions that workers would be vulnerable to the sack if they continue to work from home amid a backlash.***

Labour said it “beggars belief” that the government was “threatening people” during the coronavirus pandemic and asking them to “choose between their health and their job” as part of Boris Johnson’s drive to get workers back to the office.

It came after an unnamed government source told the Telegraph that workers need to be “alert” and that it could be “problematic” if bosses “are only seeing workers once a fortnight”. ( The strange thing is that I’ve seen various reports saying that civil servants In Whitehall aren’t likely to be returning to their offices for another year!). The government is going to upp their game in their campaign to get people back to work which is as you can imagine a 180 degree turnaround from a few weeks ago when they were intent on shutting everyone down. Saying that there is little chance of catching CV (not to be confused with CV19 because of course we know that the tests cannot differentiate) at work also flies in them very belatedly opening a variety of workplaces so why the change?

For a minute I’m going to look at returning to School.

Many people have contacted me worried about the possibility of sending their children back to school in September because of the prospect of their children being vaccinated.

So what is the government planning?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already warned that "very extensive" local or national lockdowns could be enforced in the event of a second wave this winter with pupils in English secondary schools possibly being forced to isolate for 14 days if a single case of coronavirus is confirmed within their entire year group (which for many schools could number more than 200 pupils), according to new Government guidance.****So the reality is that just 1 in 200 pupils could force 200 families to have to work around this – 200 families will be impacted one way or another. Whilst 199 children might be cheering on the fact that they’ve got an unexpected fortnight off school due to a peer with flue, for all the parents this is a potential accident waiting to happen. Look at your own personal situation here. Would you be able to accommodate a child self isolating for a fortnight or would this provide the State with an ideal opportunity to intervene in your family situation?

In any event, in areas with a local lockdown, secondary schools may use a "rota system" to limit the number of teenagers attending at any one time, in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. Again, can your family cover this eventuality?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the measures had been drawn up for a "worst case scenario". The fresh guidance, published late on Friday evening (28th August), comes just days before schools are scheduled to reopen for the autumn term.

Meanwhile Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that "very extensive" local or national lockdowns could be enforced in the event of a second wave this winter.

According to the government website change of the same date 28th August the government is arranging a ‘consultation’ which ends on 18th September.

The press release *****states:

COVID-19 is the biggest threat this country has faced in peacetime history, which is why the UK government is working to a scientifically led, step-by-step action plan for tackling the pandemic – taking the right measures at the right time.

It goes on to say that Effective COVID-19 vaccines will be the best way to deal with the pandemic. Any vaccine must first go through the usual rigorous testing and development process and be shown to meet the expected high standards of safety, quality and efficacy before it can be deployed.

Until the end of December 2020, the UK government will seek to license the vaccine through the usual route. EU legislation requires biotechnological medicines (which would include candidate COVID-19 vaccines) to be authorised via the European Medicines Agency, and a marketing authorisation granted by them would automatically be valid in the UK. From January 2021, the UK’s licensing authority will have new powers to license all medicines, including vaccines. However, if there is a compelling case, on public health grounds, for using a vaccine before it is given a product licence, given the nature of the threat we face, the JCVI may take the very unusual step of advising the UK government to use a tested, unlicensed vaccine against COVID-19, and we need to make sure that the right legislative measures are in place to deal with that scenario. (So the government is forewarning us that they will ensure that laws are passed so that an unlicensed vaccine be used on us.)

And who could administer the vaccine given the already burgeoning list of people who are waiting for treatment on the hidden NHS waiting list?

At present only nurses are authorised to administer prescription-only medicines under written instruction of a doctor. The proposals would however expand the workforce that can administer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations under an NHS or local authority occupational health scheme so that it also includes midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists. Yes you heard me right – physiotherapists and pharmacists to deliver a mass COVID-19 vaccination programme in addition to delivery of an upscaled influenza programme, in the autumn.

The government also plans for them to benefit from the same immunity from civil liability as a registered healthcare professional performing the same role. There is a possibility that both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered at the same time (ooh how confusing would that be?), and we need to make sure that in this scenario there is sufficient workforce to allow for this. I guess this means that this is the plan. These measures would be time limited so that they will cease to have effect on 1 April 2022. This will allow fuller consideration of making long-term changes in this area.

So there you have it – a ‘consultation’ ending on 18th September and a delivery of a mass vaccination programme potentially a few days later. The Daily Mail******reports that an army of medical workers including vets will be trained by October. A jab is not expected to be found until 2021 but Number 10 is drawing up emergency plans now in case of a scientific breakthrough before Christmas, officials said. What do you think?

* https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/03/coronavirus-health-passports-for-uk-possible-in-months

** https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8642973/Matt-Hancock-suggests-no-excuse-people-not-return-desks.html?ito=native_share_article-masthead

***https://uk.news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-work-office-home-backlash-085314684.html

*** *https://uk.news.yahoo.com/uk-coronavirus-live-eleventh-hour-053500645.html (Evening Standard)

*****https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/distributing-vaccines-and-treatments-for-covid-19-and-flu/consultation-document-changes-to-human-medicine-regulations-to-support-the-rollout-of-covid-19-vaccines

****** https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8673393/UK-prepares-fast-track-coronavirus-vaccine-train-army-health-workers.html

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