Sajid Javid today batted away demands from NHS bosses for the Government to revert to its Covid winter ‘Plan B’ amid surging infections and a sluggish booster vaccine programme.
The Health Secretary insisted ministers would not reintroduce face masks and WFH guidance ‘at this point’ as he addressed the nation from the podium at No10’s first Covid press conference in a month.
Mr Javid said that while the NHS was seeing ‘greater pressure’, he was confident the pressure was not ‘unsustainable’. He said ministers would ‘stay vigilant’ because cases could still rise to 100,000 a day this winter.
The decision by the Government to hold its nerve on restrictions will anger NHS leaders who claim hospitals are already buckling under the weight of Covid, flu and backlogs caused by the pandemic.
Mr Javid used the press conference to urge Britons to come forward for their booster jabs in a bid to speed up the sluggish vaccine campaign — which has only seen a quarter of care home residents revaccinated.
He said that the country was still ahead in the race against the virus thanks to the initial Covid vaccination effort, but claimed that waning immunity meant that lead was ‘narrowing’.
Pleading with the country to get their booster, Mr Javid added that not only would a booster save lives, it would also ‘protect our freedoms’. ‘Boosters could not be more important,’ he said.
Daily infections are currently on the brink of passing the 50,000 milestone for the first time in months. Department of Health bosses today recorded 49,139 positive tests, up 15 per cent on the previous week.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions rose by 15.3 per cent week-on-week to 869, while deaths jumped by nearly a third to 179. Both measures lag behind case numbers by a few weeks, due to the time it takes for someone to become seriously unwell after catching the virus.
Mr Javid also announced the UK has bought hundreds of thousands of ‘game-changing’ pills that can be used to treat Brits with Covid at home this winter.
The UK has bought 480,000 antiviral molnupiravir pills made by US pharmaceutical company Merck and 250,000 PF-073 courses from Pfizer.
They still need to be approved by the UK’s medical regulator before Britons can get their hands on the drugs.
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