Sajid Javid has warned Covid-19 cases could hit 100,000 per day this winter as he declares “the pandemic is not over”.
The health secretary said at a press conference that the government would not be implementing more Covid-19 restrictions through its winter Plan B “at this point”, but encouraged people to meet outdoors where possible and to wear face masks indoors.
Javid said “we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure this pressure doesn’t become unsustainable and we don’t allow the NHS to become overwhelmed”.
There were 223 deaths from Covid yesterday, the highest daily tally since March. However, the country was in lockdown at this point and vaccination numbers were far lower.
Hospitalisations from Covid are also now approaching 1,000 a day.
The NHS Confederation, an advocacy body for NHS providers, has called for the government to implement its Plan B winter Covid restrictions.
This would mean mandatory face masks and vaccine passports for large events.
“This pandemic is not over,” Javid said.
“Thanks to the vaccination programme the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths has now significantly weakened, but its not broken. We must all remember that this virus will be with us for a long time and that it remains a threat.
“It will remain a threat to our loved ones and a threat to the progress we’ve made to getting our nation closer to normal life. We’re looking closely at the data and we won’t be implementing our Plan B of contingency measures at this point, but we’ll be staying vigilant, preparing for all eventualities while strengthening our vital defences that can help us fight back against this virus.”
Javid said he was redoubling efforts to encourage the 5m unvaccinated people over the age of 16 to get jabbed and for those eligible to get their booster vaccine.
There will also be a “national booking service” to make it easier for 12 to 15-year-olds to get vaccinated.
Figures show that older people eligible for their third jab are not coming forward in great numbers to get their booster vaccine, which could result in increasing infections and deaths as immunity wains.
Former Sage adviser and an early advocate of the original lockdown Professor Neil Ferguson told the BBC today: “I think we need to be on the case, and we do need to prioritise the [booster] vaccination programme but we’re not in the same position as last year.”