Sajid Javid has warned that daily coronavirus cases could rise to 100,000 a day this winter.
The pandemic was not over, the health secretary said, stressing that the dark winter evenings and cold weather were the perfect conditions for the spread of Covid-19.
He said hospitalizations were now approaching 1,000 a day and deaths were “still tragically over 100 a day”.
With winter ahead, “we can’t blow it now”, Mr Javid said, outlining plans to strengthen the government’s vaccination programme.
A quarter of the cases were identified by lateral flow tests, they revealed.
And he urged people to get their vaccinations done so that everyone can “get through this winter and enjoy Christmas with their loved ones”.
The UK is in a race between the vaccine and the virus and the gap was narrowing, Mr Javid warned.
Jenny Harris, chief executive of the newly formed UK Health Protection Agency, said: “We are really kicking off the winter with a very high level of cases,” adding that deaths were “moving in the wrong direction”.
“We think learning to live with this virus is the right decision,” Mr Javid said, when asked whether face coverings should be made mandatory.
He added that if ministers needed to take further measures, this would include making face masks mandatory – under Plan B, he said.
The government did not believe the pressure on the NHS was untenable “at this point”, Mr Javid told reporters. “If at any point we find that the pressures are untenable we will not hesitate to take action.”
He added: “We will remain vigilant as we prepare for all events while strengthening our vital defenses, which may help us fight this virus.”
Praising the deals for the new two antiviral treatments as “big news”, he said: “But we cannot be complacent when Covid-19 remains such a powerful threat.”
The government will not implement its Plan B strategy “at this point”, Mr Javid confirmed.
England’s national medical director Prof Stephen Powis asked the public to help reduce pressure on the NHS by wearing face masks in places with little or no ventilation, such as tubes or enclosed spaces.
On reduced immunity, Prof Powis said the vaccines were still “incredibly effective”, but acknowledged that jabs reduce immunity, so booster doses were important.
Mr Javid said the flu vaccination program was more important than ever this year, and the government had bought hundreds of thousands of doses of antiviral drugs that could be used if there was a Covid outbreak in a care home, for example. However, the regulator is yet to approve their use.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /