Sajid Javid warns coronavirus pandemic 'is not over'
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Covid cases could surge to hit 100,000 a day after nearly 50,000 new daily infections were confirmed on Wednesday. Despite these alarming claims and desperate calls about the necessity for Covid Plan B measures to be implemented by leading health officials, the Government has maintained pressure is not significant enough on the NHS to warrant such action “at this time”. The Cabinet Office is said to be discussing proposals for Plan C in case Plan B is insufficient, prompting concern Christmas could be off the cards for millions for the second year in a row.
New daily Covid cases are on the rise with the UK recording more than 40,000 new cases each day for the last eight days.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned daily cases could soon spiral to hit 100,000 new infections each day, but in spite of this terrifying claim, the Government is rejecting the implementation of tougher restrictions right now.
Speaking from Downing Street on Wednesday, Mr Javid said the Government would “do what it takes to make sure that this pressure doesn’t become unsustainable and that we don’t allow the NHS to become overwhelmed.”
He urged all those eligible for booster Covid jabs and the flu vaccine to come forward to get vaccinated in order to “not just save lives, but to keep your freedoms too.”
Health experts are now calling on the Government to reconsider in the face of rising infections.
Discussions are reportedly in the early stages, but virologist and molecular medicine expert Professor Martin Michaelis from the University of Kent said they might be needed to break the transmission chain.
Professor Michaelis told Express.co.uk: “In the end, the Government will have to do everything that will be needed to prevent a complete collapse of the hospital system, independently of the plans that it has put out. If the situation becomes very bad and unsustainable, this will also include lockdowns again.
“We had pandemic preparedness plans at the beginning of the pandemic, but the government had to decide that they have to deviate from these plans when they turned out not to be fit-for-purpose.
“Lockdowns are very effective in controlling COVID-19 transmission because they break many transmission chains of the virus.”
But what is Plan C?
The proposed Plan C is the next step after Plan B and would see mixing with other households banned once again.
This restrictive measure could be implemented if pressures on hospitals and the healthcare system mount to a worrying level once again.
Such measures were in force for much of 2020, with people unable to see their loved ones for months.
Many people were unable to celebrate the festive season with loved ones due to these types of restrictions – and now fears are mounting a second Christmas could be lost to Covid.
Most lockdown restrictions were eased earlier this year, with social mixing outside households permitted from May.
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The Cabinet Office’s Covid task force is understood to be discussing a potential Plan C if Plan B is deemed insufficient and ineffective at curbing rising rates of the infection.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “The focus is very much on measures that can be taken without a major economic impact, so keeping shops, pubs and restaurants open but looking at other ways to reduce the risks.”
The ban on household mixing is being proposed by officials amid concerns people are most likely to experience prolonged exposure to Covid within the home and with high rates among younger people, teenagers and children – there are fears COVID-19 could rapidly spread to the more vulnerable older population.
As yet there has been no guidance released on Plan C, while some Plan B measures are being implemented in some areas of the UK.
Enduring Transmission Area (ETA) support will be given to these areas to aid with testing, vaccine support and staffing.
However, doctors with the British Medical Association have accused the Government of being “willfully negligent” by refusing to fully enforce Plan B measures.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “It is incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and protect the NHS.”
He accused the Government of taking “its foot off the brake, giving the impression that the pandemic is behind us and that life has returned to normal”.
His comments echoed fears raised by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS, who said Britons needed to start wearing masks and working from home to avoid “stumbling into a winter Covid crisis.”
Given the ongoing crisis, proposals for a Plan C are reportedly being discussed by the Cabinet Office.
The Health Secretary insisted bringing Plan B measures into force is not the right move “at this time”.
Plan B measures would include compulsory face masks in some settings, introducing vaccine passports and advice to work from home.
Mr Javid said he did not believe the current pressures on the NHS were unsustainable and therefore Plan B was not needed yet.
He added: “If not enough people get their booster jabs, if not enough of those people that were eligible for the original offer… if they don’t come forward if people don’t wear masks when they really should in a really crowded place with lots of people that they don’t normally hang out with if they’re not washing their hands and stuff, it’s going to hit us all.
“And it would of course make it more likely we’re going to have more restrictions.”
Health Minister Edward Argar said proposals beyond Plan B are not being “actively considered” on Thursday morning.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Argar said: “Of course, as a Government, you look at – as we’ve done with our plan B – alternatives and ways that you might if you needed to, start easing that pressure.
“The specifics of that and what was mooted in it as I understand it, as I only glanced at it I’m afraid on my way in this morning, about limiting household mixing, things like that … is that it isn’t something that is being actively considered.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far refused to be drawn into discussions about the thresholds for more restrictive action.
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