Latest developments as they happen
Related video: Labour calls for Covid Plan B restrictions now
Covid rates in the UK are “astonishingly high” and have become “unacceptable”, a leading virus expert who advises the government has said, as pressure builds on ministers to reintroduce restrictions.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we’re facing at the moment is unacceptable, we’ve got roughly one in 55 people infected, which is an astonishingly high rate compared to most other west European countries.”
He described elements included in plan B – such as mandatory use of face masks and work-from-home instructions – as “sensible” and said they need not be “very disruptive”.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said last week that new cases could reach 100,000 a day, but Downing Street has insisted there is still spare capacity in the NHS and that plan B will only be activated if it comes under “significant pressure”.
This year we will have a ‘normal Christmas’, insists Javid
Sajid Javid has said he believes “we’ll have a normal Christmas” this year as fears of another disrupted festive season grow off the back of surging Covid case rates.
He told BBC Breakfast it is not necessary to implement plan B of the winter Covid-19 precautions “at this point”.
Asked about Christmas, he said: “This virus, we’ve seen already, what we know about it is it is unpredictable and I don’t think any sensible health secretary across the world would want to predict exactly where we’re going to be in three months’ time, or six months’ time, not least because there’s always the risk sadly of a new variant that could be more dangerous.”
But he said the best thing to do is get vaccinated and take daily precautions.
“For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas – which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas – if we want let’s just keep playing our part,” Mr Javid said.
He said he “of course” agrees with Boris Johnson that it will be a better Christmas than last year.
Exclusion zones outside schools an ‘option’ to tackle anti-vaxxers, Javid says
Exclusion zones outside schools are an option to prevent anti-vaxxersspreading “vicious lies” to children, Sajid Javid has said.
The health secretary’s comments came after Priti Patel said it was “completely unacceptable for children, teachers or parents to be intimidated and harassed outside their schools”.
Earlier this month the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) that 79 per cent of of schools surveyed had been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
Read the full report here:
‘These people are doing so much damage,’ health secretary says
Get your booster jab, NHS and government tell public
A senior health chief has urged people to get their Covid booster jab as the NHS sends out a further two million invites this week.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said infection rates are rising, while the government again ruled out a move to its coronavirus plan B despite calls to bring in measures to curb the spread of the virus.
NHS England said more than 5 million people have already been given the additional jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month.
And on Sunday, it said more than 800,000 people had their booster in the past 72 hours.
Covid cases ‘astonishingly high’ and plan B is ‘sensible’, says virus expert
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), has been speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He suggested ministers should be giving “clear leadership” on the issue of face masks and working from home in order to curb the spread of the Covid.
Prof Openshaw said: “I don’t think it’s a binary go for plan B or nothing, it’s very clear that the measures that are in included in plan B are sensible and not very disruptive.
“It’s not problematic to give clear leadership about the use of face masks, and working at home if you can is also not particularly disruptive for many people.
“Those measures are likely to lead to a pretty good reduction in the really unacceptable number of cases that we’ve got at the moment.
“To my mind, the introduction of vaccine passports is also fine – it’s been accepted very easily in most other western European countries.
“It’s very sensible, if you were going into a crowded indoor space and knew everyone there had been fully vaccinated and perhaps had had a rapid test on the day, you’d feel much more secure about going into that space.”
He added: “What we’re facing at the moment is unacceptable we’ve got roughly one in 55 people infected, which is an astonishingly high rate compared to most other west European countries.
“This is connected with the lack of clear messaging about sensible measures that we should all be taking in order to reduce the spread of infection.”
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage as pressure continues to build on the government to respond to high Covid case rates across the UK.