Covid jabs could be compulsory for medics and care staff says Professor Chris Whitty

A Covid jab could become compulsory for NHS workers and care home staff, as England’s chief medical officer says they have a ‘professional responsibility’ to get vaccinated.

Speaking on Monday Professor Chris Whitty said he expects doctors and care workers to take the vaccine voluntarily, suggesting that they should want to do anything they can to reduce the risk Covid poses to their patients. 

He told the government press briefing: ‘My view is clearly for medical staff, where I am subject to the same code, it is a professional responsibility for doctors to do things which help protect their patients, and I expect that to be a professional responsibility for all other health and social care staff as well.’

The comments are the first from a government official to indicate that vaccinations could become compulsory for those caring for the vulnerable. 

Speaking at Monday's press briefing Professor Chris Whitty said he expects doctors and care workers to take the vaccine voluntarily

Speaking at Monday's press briefing Professor Chris Whitty said he expects doctors and care workers to take the vaccine voluntarily

Speaking at Monday’s press briefing Professor Chris Whitty said he expects doctors and care workers to take the vaccine voluntarily

Despite Professor Whitty’s expectations a study earlier this month found that only 64 per cent of staff at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust had taken up the offer to get their first dose by February 3.      

While uptake was 71 per cent in white medics, the highest of any group, it plunged to half this level in black staff. This was despite research showing BAME groups are at higher risk of serious illness and death if they catch the virus.

It was also lower among South Asians, where only 60 per cent had received their first dose.

Doctors at the trust — the only occupation with a majority of BAME employees — were also least likely to get the jab, after only 57 per cent turned up to appointments.

Doctor Kate Martin (left) administers an injection of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the vaccination centre set up at St Columba's church in Sheffield, February 20, 2021

Doctor Kate Martin (left) administers an injection of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the vaccination centre set up at St Columba's church in Sheffield, February 20, 2021

Doctor Kate Martin (left) administers an injection of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the vaccination centre set up at St Columba’s church in Sheffield, February 20, 2021

And under-30s were less likely to get the jab than their older colleagues, which experts feared could be down to perceptions they are not at high risk from the virus.  

Asked about the results earlier this month, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on doctors and nurses to get their jabs saying: ‘It’s important for your patients and of course it is important for the whole of society that we get this to as many people as possible.’    

The comments from Professor Whitty come as Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled an ultra-cautious ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown by June – with schools reopening in a fortnight but little else set to change for months.

Flanked by Professor Whitty and Patrick Vallance as he defended his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy at a No10 briefing, the PM stated that ‘Covid zero’ was not possible and the return to normality must begin even though cases will rise.

Boris Johnson was flanked by Professor Whitty and Patrick Vallance as he defended his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy at a No10 briefing on Monday

Boris Johnson was flanked by Professor Whitty and Patrick Vallance as he defended his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy at a No10 briefing on Monday

Boris Johnson was flanked by Professor Whitty and Patrick Vallance as he defended his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy at a No10 briefing on Monday

However, Mr Johnson made clear he was prioritising ‘certainty over urgency’, saying he is being as ‘dynamic as possible in the circumstances’ and the ‘crocus of hope’ is starting to appear.

Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick said there are still very significant numbers of people infected with Covid and going to fast risked the outbreak spiralling again.  

Prof Whitty added: ‘There is still a lot of people in hospital with this disease. This is not the end, but this is the point where we can have a steady, risk-based, data-driven opening up.

‘But everybody must stick to the guidelines as they go through the different stages, because if we don’t do that then we will get to a stage where the rates go up very high and you’ll find there are people who are not protected by the vaccinations.

‘These are not 100 per cent effective, as the Prime Minister said.’

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick ‘completely’ agreed with Prof Whitty, adding: ‘The caution of going every five weeks is very important because we need to measure so that we’re not flying blind on this.

‘We need to know what the impact of the opening up steps are.’

Sir Patrick also suggested that the public needs to be prepared for some restrictions, such as masks, to return next winter.

In the Commons this afternoon, Mr Johnson said the ‘threat remains’ from the disease and cases, hospitalisations and deaths will rise in the coming months because no vaccines can offer 100 per cent protection for the whole population.

‘At every stage our decisions will be led by data not dates,’ the premier told MPs. 

How will lockdown ease in the roadmap?  

Step One Part One: March 8

From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.

So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.

People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.

Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.

Step One Part Two: March 29

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.

However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.

People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.

Step Two: April 12

Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.

Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.

Any visits to a pub or restuarant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.

Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.

Step Three: May 17

The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.

This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full

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