Connect with us

NEWS

Boris warns Covid ‘far from over’ as he unveils ‘winter plan’

Published

on


Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government’s ‘winter plan’ – admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding brutal curbs.

The Health Secretary said the country must be ‘vigilant’ with the disease expect to surge with colder wetter weather over the coming months.

In a statement to MPs, he stressed that vaccines can help ‘build defences’ against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting next week. 

But Mr Javid was heckled by Tories in the Commons as he said the blueprint includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory ‘in certain settings’, more working from home and social distancing if the NHS is under threat. 

Vaccine passports will be kept ‘in reserve’ and could be introduced in England with a week’s notice, even though they will not go ahead from next month as originally intended.

Mr Javid said the package is designed to give the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding even harsher restrictions, but he said that in a situation such as the emergence of an ‘escape variant’ the government would go further. 

‘Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities,’ he said, adding that he was determined to ‘protect the progress’ that had been made. 

‘The plan shows how we’ll give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions,’ the Cabinet minister said. 

He said it is ‘highly likely’ that frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings will need to have Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in order to be deployed. 

Mr Javid said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will provide an update on international travel ahead of the formal review point on October 1 – with hopes he will scrap the traffic light system and announce PCR tests are being phased out.  

The PM is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon. 

But scientists are already warning that the country is going into the winter with high levels of cases, saying that ‘does not bode well’ for hopes of avoiding further restrictions. 

Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government's 'winter plan' - admitting that ministers can only give Britons the 'best possible chance' of avoiding brutal curbs

Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government’s ‘winter plan’ – admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding brutal curbs

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Leicester yesterday) is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Leicester yesterday) is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement

Javid slams GPs for failing to see patients face to face amid pandemic  

Sajid Javid today took aim at GPs for not doing face-to-face appointments.

The Health Secretary delivered a warning that the government ‘do a lot more’ to ensure doctors go back to seeing patients in person.

The comments came after Conservative MP Dean Russell raised concerns over some GP surgeries in his Watford constituency ‘still not opening their doors’ to see patients.

 ‘Does he agree with me that we should encourage those GP surgeries to start opening up to help with the backlog and help see people face-to-face?’

Mr Javid replied: ‘Yes, I agree with (Mr Russell). He’s right to raise this.

‘I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.

‘But we’re way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access.

‘We intend to do a lot more about it.’ 

The Winter Plan document lays out the details of Plan A and Plan B. But although it does not go into detail about other contingencies, it states that further steps cannot be ruled out.   

‘While the Government expects that, with strong engagement from the public and businesses, these contingency measures should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence in autumn or winter, the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees,’  the document said.

‘The Government remains committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed but more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort.’ 

In a gloomy assessment last night, Chris Whitty warned that hospitals and schools faced another winter of disruption.

Ministers yesterday accepted the chief medical officer’s advice that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered doses.

Secondary pupils are to be offered jabs at school from next week, despite concerns that the move could stigmatise those who refuse and lead to ‘bullying’.

Mr Zahawi confirmed this morning that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes in some circumstances, although he insisted it is likely to be a ‘very rare occurence’. 

Government scientists today also gave the green light for booster shots for the over-50s, starting this month.

The vaccine advisory panel recommended a third dose for roughly 30million people aged 50 and over who received their second injection at least six months ago.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that the jabs would help ‘keep the lid on’ the virus and make it more likely the country could have a normal winter.

Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the plans on the back of growing real-world data in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a major British study, which suggested vaccine-induced immunity wanes within months.

There had been mounting pressure for the UK to follow Israel, the US, and other nations which have been booster dosing their citizens for months.

Britons who are eligible will be given the Pfizer vaccine in the first instance, no matter which jab they were originally immunised with. When there are supply constraints, the Moderna vaccine will be offered as a booster in the form of a half dose.

Key points of the PM’s Covid Winter Plan 

PLAN A – WILL HAPPEN

Vaccine boosters for 50-plus age group, offering jabs to under-16s

Develop and deploy antivirals and other treatments

Flu vaccine drive to prevent additional pressure on NHS

Use Test, Trace and Isolate to limit Covid spread

Bolster the NHS and social care with funding to clear backlog and improve services

Advise people to limit their risks, including by meeting outside where possible, ventilating rooms, wearing masks in crowded spaces, and getting tests when unwell

Helping international vaccination drive and controlling risks at UK borders

PLAN B – IF THE NHS STILL COMES UNDER ‘UNSUSTAINABLE’ PRESSURE

Mandatory Covid passports in certain settings such as nightclubs and major events

Make face coverings compulsory in certain settings

Advise the public that the level of risk has increased, they should behave more cautiously and work from home if possible

PLAN C? IF ALL ELSE FAILS

Advertisements

Ministers insist that a lockdown would be the ‘last resort’ but the plan warns that ‘the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees’.

Officials said there was more evidence that the mRNA vaccines were safe and effective when given as a third dose, which is why they are not recommending AstraZeneca’s.

Moderna’s is being recommended as a half dose because the lower dosage is associated with fewer side effects and still produces a strong immune response, the JCVI said.

People who are invited for their booster Covid vaccine will be able to get their flu jab at the same time, in the opposite arm.

Professor Van-Tam said that as a 57-year-old healthcare worker, who will be eligible for a booster vaccine, he would be ‘content’ with getting a full Pfizer or half Moderna dose.

Mr Johnson said overnight he would be setting out ‘a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made’.

He added: ‘The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.’

Professor Whitty said: ‘Anybody who believes the big risk of Covid is all in the past and it’s all too late to be making a difference has not understood where we are going to head as we go into autumn and winter. There will continue to be challenges and pressure on the NHS and continue to be disruption to education.’

Downing Street is relatively relaxed about high infection levels, pointing out that the average of 30,000 a day is well below the 100,000 predicted by some in July. 

But they are increasingly concerned by rising hospital admissions. Another 1,000 were recorded yesterday and the total in hospital stands at 8,256 – a 37 per cent increase over the past month.

Pressure on other NHS services is expected to start to become intense if the total hits 10,000.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said current data suggest that ‘we’re not out of the woods’ and the Covid-19 figures ‘do not bode well for winter’.

He told Sky News: ‘We can see from the figures that we’re still nearing a thousand deaths a week and thousands of hospitalised patients that are challenging capacity in our hospitals – and of course making care for non-Covid patients extremely difficult as well because of the stretch of the staff that are in those hospitals who have been under pressure for 18 months now.

‘So it’s pretty clear I think, from the data and from individual sources, that we’re not out of the woods and it doesn’t bode well for going into winter at all.’

He added: ‘If we cast our minds back to July 19, many scientists including myself, were saying that ‘we need to take this slowly because we have the transmission rates are far too high to be removing all restrictions, and this will have a knock on effect – in other words we wouldn’t get away with this as a country moving into winter’.

‘And what we’re seeing now is really the result of that advice not being heeded and now we’re in a position where we’re talking about lockdowns again.

‘So I think that with the correct planning, this could have been avoided.’

Whitehall exercises conducted over the summer warned that schools and care homes, as well as the NHS, are both vulnerable to a surge in cases this autumn.

Today’s plan will set out measures to prevent another lockdown this winter.

While it will focus on the remaining stages of the vaccination programme, it will also warn other restrictions may be needed to prevent cases getting out of control. The plan will focus initially on causing the least disruption to normal life and the economy.

Masks will be top of the list, with some insiders warning that new guidance – or even compulsion – could be introduced within weeks. One Whitehall source said: ‘Masks provide some benefit without having an impact on people’s lives or the economy so they are the obvious place to start.’

Mr Javid appeared to rule out vaccine passports over the weekend. But ministers met again yesterday to discuss their possible introduction for nightclubs and mass events.

Earlier this month the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation - known as myocarditis - in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose

Earlier this month the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation – known as myocarditis – in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose

Around 3million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move last night claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter. Professor Whitty held a press conference with JCVI chief Professor Wei Shen Lim (left) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine

Around 3million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move last night claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter. Professor Whitty held a press conference with JCVI chief Professor Wei Shen Lim (left) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine

The CMOs admitted the rollout will likely only stop about 30,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds between now and March. But the vaccines will prevent tens of thousands more from having to self-isolate and miss school as a result, they claim. Modelling of the winter term estimated that without the vaccines there could be about 89,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds, compared to 59,000 with the rollout. Without vaccination they warn of 320,000 school absences by March, whereas this could be reduced to 220,000 with the jabs

Plans to vaccinate under-16s descend into chaos 

Plans to vaccinate all over-12s across the UK descended into further confusion and controversy today as Britain’s vaccines minister admitted Year 7 children could ignore their parents’ wishes — while Tory MPs warned the jab policy will ‘tear families apart’.

A gloomy Chris Whitty warned yesterday that schools faced another winter of disruption and advised those aged 12 to 15 should be offered single doses of Pfizer’s jab from next week. No10’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the NHS was ready to begin inoculations from next Wednesday.

There are concerns that while parental consent will be sought, it will not be needed if the healthcare worker administering the jab considers the child is competent to make the decision themselves.

Today Mr Zahawi admitted that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes on Covid jabs but he admitted it is likely to be ‘a very rare occurrence’. He also said parents shouldn’t be ‘stigmatised’ if they are hesitant about their children being vaccinated, given that top advisers insisted the benefits only marginally outweighed the risks.

But in more confusion, a senior member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, suggested there would be a sliding scale of competency, meaning that it would be easier for a 16-year-old to overrule a parent than for a 12-year-old who is ‘less likely to be deemed competent’ under the ‘Gillick test’, which has been in place for the medical treatment of minors since the 1980s.

Cotswolds Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told MPs he finds Covid jabs for secondary school children — and the rows it will cause — ‘deeply troubling’.

He said: ‘It will pit parents against parents. Parents against teachers with a poor child stuck in the middle wondering what to do, for very little benefit for the child themselves, with a lack of long-term data of the potential harm.

‘And, above all, what really concerns me about this is the Gillick doctrine of treating children without parental consent will become the norm for a whole range of medical procedures.’

Fellow Tory MP Marcus Fysh has claimed it is a ‘very dark day for our country’ while Ian Duncan Smith said he is sure the vaccines diktat will cause disputes within families after Mr Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons last night.

Mr Johnson yesterday said he wanted to ‘avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can’. But a Whitehall source confirmed they remained a live option.

‘The data shows we do not need to go ahead with vaccine passports in September as originally planned,’ the source said. ‘But we need to hold them in reserve for when they are needed. We still think they might help keep businesses open that might otherwise have to close.’

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, called for the passport plan to be scrapped as ‘pointless, damaging and discriminatory’.

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College said giving teenagers a first shot was the priority. He also said evidence from Israel suggested boosters for the wider population were ‘very effective at further driving down transmission and infection’. 

Mr Johnson be flanked by Professor Whitty and chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance when he faces questions about the winter plan this afternoon.

Ministers will meet this week to discuss scrapping post-arrival PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers while some measures under the Coronavirus Act are set to be repealed.

Plans to vaccinate all over-12s across the UK descended into further confusion and controversy today as Britain’s vaccines minister admitted Year 7 children could ignore their parents’ wishes — while Tory MPs warned the jab policy will ‘tear families apart’.

Mr Zahawi said the NHS was ready to begin inoculations from next Wednesday.

There are concerns that while parental consent will be sought, it will not be needed if the healthcare worker administering the jab considers the child is competent to make the decision themselves.

Today Mr Zahawi admitted that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes on Covid jabs but he admitted it is likely to be ‘a very rare occurrence’. He also said parents shouldn’t be ‘stigmatised’ if they are hesitant about their children being vaccinated, given that top advisers insisted the benefits only marginally outweighed the risks.

But in more confusion, a senior member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, suggested there would be a sliding scale of competency, meaning that it would be easier for a 16-year-old to overrule a parent than for a 12-year-old who is ‘less likely to be deemed competent’ under the ‘Gillick test’, which has been in place for the medical treatment of minors since the 1980s.

Cotswolds Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told MPs he finds Covid jabs for secondary school children — and the rows it will cause — ‘deeply troubling’.

He said: ‘It will pit parents against parents. Parents against teachers with a poor child stuck in the middle wondering what to do, for very little benefit for the child themselves, with a lack of long-term data of the potential harm.

‘And, above all, what really concerns me about this is the Gillick doctrine of treating children without parental consent will become the norm for a whole range of medical procedures.’

Fellow Tory MP Marcus Fysh has claimed it is a ‘very dark day for our country’ while Ian Duncan Smith said he is sure the vaccines diktat will cause disputes within families after Mr Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons last night.

California Yellow Pages Blogs Directory
Enable Notifications    OK No thanks