Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Businesses tempt Covid vaccine shy with vouchers and discounts

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Asda, National Express and lastminute.com are among companies that will offer incentives to customers who get vaccinated against coronavirus.

The group of businesses join Uber and Bolt, the taxi companies, and the takeaway service Deliveroo, which have said they will give discounted rides and meals to customers who have had a jab.

Asda will offer £10 vouchers for its clothing brand George to those aged 18 to 30 who get vaccinated at pop-up clinics in south London, Watford and Birmingham.

The travel company lastminute.com will offer £30 gift cards towards foreign travel for over-18s who book vaccinations through their website.

Better leisure centres will offer the over-16s a £10 voucher to use on any Better membership and a free three-day pass at any of their 235 leisure facilities across the UK.

Free Now, a taxi app, will provide up to £1 million in free rides for over-18s attending their vaccine appointment each way from Sunday until the end of September, while National Express Buses in the Midlands will offer 1,000 people five-day unlimited travel saver tickets that can be used within 90 days.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, hailed a “cautious” move “towards normality” last night as the government ended the requirement for people to isolate if they are pinged.

From today, people in England who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace or receive a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app. Instead, they will be encouraged, but not required, to get a PCR test.

Javid said: “The British public have played a vital role following self-isolation rules throughout the pandemic and sacrificing so much to help bring the virus under control.

“The requirement for double-jabbed and under-18s who are contacts of people with Covid-19 has been removed as we cautiously take another step back towards normality, thanks to the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout.

“Vaccines are what will bring this pandemic to an end — with over 84,000 lives already saved and 23 million infections prevented. Please come forward to receive your jab as soon as you can to protect yourself and the people around you.”

The new rules will apply to all those who received their second jab at least 14 days before they were identified as a contact and to all under-18s. There will be no requirement for people to isolate while awaiting the results of their test.

Those who then test positive will be legally required to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status. Anyone who develops coronavirus symptoms will also be expected to get a test and remain in isolation until their result comes back.

Ministers believe that the move will end the pingdemic, during which millions of people have been asked to isolate. Pubs and other industries have said it has devastated their workforces.

The decision to end the requirement for under-18s to self-isolate if they are identified as contacts is also significant before the return of schools in England next month.

The government is ending “bubbles” for groups of children and the need to stagger start and finish times.

There will be extra precautions for health and social care workers identified as close contacts. They will be allowed to return to work if they have a negative PCR test, and must take lateral flow tests as a precaution for the next ten days. Those working with patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be subjected to a risk assessment before they can return to work.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, predicted that the loosened rules would increase infections. “This change comes at an interesting time when daily case numbers remain high and there is increasing evidence that double-vaccinated individuals can still get infected with the delta variant and spread infection to others,” he said.

“It is very likely that this change will fuel increased levels of infection and that this will lead to further hospitalisations and deaths. It will add to the current sense of complacency and the view that we are over the pandemic.”

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