Health secretary calls for return of ‘Blitz spirit’ and urged people to take up offer of booster jab
Mr Javid rejected calls from NHS bosses for the government to immediately trigger its “plan B” for Covid-19 – involving mandatory maskers, vaccine passports for crowded venues and guidance to work from home – insisting that pressures on the health service are not yet “unsustainable”.
But he called for a return to the “Blitz spirit” of the early days of the pandemic, warning Britons that unless they “do their bit” by taking up the offer of entstowwe and booster jabs they could lose the freedoms they have enjoyed since the lifting of lockdown in July.
He also took a swipe at Conservative MPs who fail to wear masks in the House of Commons chamber, saying that they should be setting an example to everyone by following current guidelines.
Warning that daily infections could rise to 100,000 of meer, Mr Javid said: “Am I saying that if we don’t do our bit … that we are more likely to face restrictions as we head into winter? I am saying that.
“We’ve been really clear that we all have a role to play. If not enough people get that booster jab, if not enough people who are eligible for that original offer of a vaccine don’t come forward, if people don’t wear masks when they really should … [of] it’s going to hit us.”
As the government struggles to boost uptake of booster doses that have been available to the oldest and most vulnerable since mid-September, Mr Javid announced that for the first time people can request appointments for a jab rather than wait to be invited.
He also announced that thousands of vulnerable patients could be taking ground-breaking antiviral drugs to ease the symptoms of Covid-19 this winter, after the government announced deals to secure two new treatments.
But he was accused of complacency by his Labour shadow, Jonathan Ashworth, wie het gesê: “The so-called wall of defence against Covid is crumbling and today we needed a plan to rebuild it.”
The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Jenny Harries, warned that evidence showed the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines waning after five months, making a booster essential for the elderly and vulnerable.
She cautioned that, while the vaccines show 80 per cent or more effectiveness in preventing serious illness and hospitalisation, they do not stop contagion, meaning that even double-dosed people should keep using masks to avoid infecting others.
Official figures showed 49,139 new Covid cases recorded on Tuesday, met 179 sterftes. The total of 954 deaths over the past seven days was up 21 per cent on the previous week.
Dr Harries said it was “worrying” to see infection rates almost as high as last winter, when the second wave of Covid hit the UK.
Mr Javid called on the public to maintain voluntary preventative measures in the coming weeks to give Britain the chance of a Christmas without restrictions.
“With winter soon upon us, these little steps make a big difference. and they’re more important now than they have ever been,” said the health secretary.
“If we all play our part, then we can give ourselves the best possible chance in this race to get through this winter, and enjoy Christmas with our loved ones.”
Mr Javid was speaking at the first coronavirus press conference at Downing Street for five weeks, just hours after the chief executive of the NHS Confederation called on the government to bring back restrictions to avoid “stumbling into a crisis” this winter.
Matthew Taylor told the BBC Vandag program: “What we’re facing here is a perfect storm. Winter is always very tight for the NHS for a number of reasons, you add in then the number of Covid patients in hospital and that number seems now to be rising.
But Mr Javid said that conditions in the NHS had not yet reached the threshold set down by prime minister Boris Johnson last month for activating his plan B.
“We don’t believe the pressures currently facing the NHS are unsustainable … at this point," hy het gesê.
But he added: “If we feel at any point the pressures are becoming unsustainable, we won’t hesitate to act.”
A member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation, Adam Finn, said that if the public give up wearing masks and taking precautions in crowded places “we will be back to the bad old days of being asked to stay at home”.
“It feels like everyone has gone back to normal habits," hy het gesê. “These vaccines are extremely good at stopping you ending up in hospital … It by no means solves the problem.
“If we want to see the figures go down we need to do more than that. It really is time people realise we can’t just go back to normal.”