As of the 8th of October 2021, 78.5% of the UK population has received a complete COVID-19 vaccination and 85.4% has received at least one dose. The UK continues to ramp up its vaccination rollout, providing booster vaccine doses available on the NHS for people most at risk from COVID-19 and who have already had 2 doses of a vaccine.
No country was prepared and spared from the havoc that COVID-19 has been creating in 2020. With most still battling the formidable global enemy today, some have strategically adapted to it. The UK is one of the nations that have stood out in many ways fighting the coronavirus– from accelerating testing and hospital ICU capacity to massively inoculating its population. It is also home to University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca, one of the world’s suppliers of COVID-19 vaccine.
In this article, we take a closer look into the UK’s pandemic initiatives that have enabled the country and its people to thrive and live in the new normal.
The UK government’s support for affected businesses and individuals since the first UK-wide lockdown in 2020 was introduced has been carried over this year. Some of the initiatives for businesses include: Statutory Sick Pay for employees with COVID-related sickness, cash grants to businesses affected by lockdown restrictions, several low-interest loan schemes, and a new VAT payment scheme that allows businesses to pay up to 11 smaller monthly installments, interest-free, up to the end of March 2022.
For individuals affected by the pandemic, the government introduced Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and extended the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until April 2021. The £2 billion Kickstart scheme centred on helping young people (aged 16–24) into work was also implemented along with Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS), which gives six months of tailored support to people who are unable to find work within the first three months of unemployment.
Aside from ramping up the booster vaccine to those at high risk, Britain has also allocated 5.4 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) over the next six months to help its National Health Service cover additional costs from the COVID-19 pandemic. The extra funding includes 1 billion pounds to help tackle the backlog and 2.8 billion pounds to cover related costs such as enhanced infection control measures to keep staff and patients safe from the virus.
Specific to international education, the UK government pressed on and updated its International Education Strategy initially published in 2019. The new student immigration route that streamlined the immigration process for international students was launched in 2020, providing greater scope for international students to switch into other routes from inside the UK.
Furthermore, the Graduate route launched in summer 2021 allows eligible students to stay in the UK to work or look for work for 2 years (3 years if studying at Ph.D. level) after they have completed a degree in the UK. A new international education scheme, the Turing Scheme, was also introduced in September 2021 to provide funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges, and schools to go on placements overseas.
According to the released COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021:
“The country is learning to live with COVID-19, and the main line of defence is now vaccination rather than lockdown. The Test, Trace, and Isolate system is reducing the number of positive cases mixing in the community. Rules and regulations have mostly been replaced with advice and guidance on the practical steps people can take to help manage the risks to themselves and others.”
Know more about the UK government’s Autumn and Winter Plan A and B here.