The UK has recorded more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time since mid-July, as ministers continue to reject calls from health leaders for some restrictions to be introduced.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the current strain facing the NHS was not “unsustainable”, while Boris Johnson said infection numbers were “high” but “within the parameters of what the predictions were”.
Doctors described the government’s decision as “wilful negligence” and said “Plan B” should be activated to protect the NHS. Under this scenario, face masks would be made mandatory and working from home would be advised.
Meanwhile, a record 234,000 people booked to receive their booster jab on Wednesday, Mr Javid said.
The announcement came after Labour criticised the speed of the booster jab rollout, urging the government to complete it by Christmas rather than March.
BMA calls government negligent for not implementing ‘plan B’ despite Covid surge
The government is being “wilfully negligent” by not introducing measures to suppress the recent rise in coronavirus cases, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul made the comments after the health secretary ignored NHS leaders’ pleas for the implementation of ‘Plan B’, which could see the return of mandatory mask wearing in indoor spaces and the need to work from home where possible, writes Rory Sullivan.
Speaking at a No 10 press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Sajid Javid said the current pressure on the NHS was not “unsustainable”, noting that the contingency plan would only be introduced if hospitals were at risk of being “overwhelmed”.
British Medical Association says NHS is being ‘overwhelmed’
Covid restrictions could return unless public ‘do their bit’, Sajid Javid warns
Sajid Javid has warned that coronavirus restrictions could return in England in the run-up to Christmas, as UK infections hit almost 50,000 in a single day – their highest since July, writes Andrew Woodcock.
Mr Javid rejected calls from NHS bosses for the government to immediately trigger its Plan B for Covid-19 - involving mandatory masks, vaccine passports for crowded venues like nightclubs 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 vaccines and booster jabs they could lose the freedoms they have enjoyed since the lifting of lockdown in July.
Health secretary calls for return of ‘Blitz spirit’ and urged people to take up offer of booster jab
Health minister denies government has ‘plan C’ for Covid-19 this winter
The government does not have a “plan C” for tackling coronavirus this winter despite reports to that effect, a minister has said.
Edward Argar, a health minister, said the government was not considering banning household mixing at Christmas.
He told Sky News: "That's not something I'm aware of, I checked it out and I'm told that is not a story with foundation.
"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."
The government has been accused of negligence for refusing to implement its “plan B” now. Instead it is waiting until hospitals are at risk of being “overwhelmed”, Sajid Javid has said.
Mr Argar was asked how bad the situation in the NHS would have to get before the government acted, but said it would not "be appropriate to set an arbitrary figure, X number of infections, X number of hospitalisations".
He said: "We need to look at all this in the round, we need to look at the death rate, absolutely.
"We need to look at that booster rollout programme ... vaccination programme ... vaccination rates in young people, the 12- to 15-year-olds, because we're seeing in that school-age population, that's where we're seeing actually the biggest increases driving these infections."
He added: "I can't give you a simple, here is a sort of black-and-white answer, here is a binary line, because it takes ... there's a whole range of factors we'll take into consideration."
Less drastic elements of ‘plan B’ already being introduced
Some elements of the government’s “plan B” for containing coronavirus this winter are already being introduced despite ministers’ steadfast refusal to implement mandatory face masks and other more drastic curbs, according to reports.
From tomorrow, four council areas will reportedly be classed as locations experiencing “enduring transmission” of Covid-19 and receive extra support.
They are Leicester, Luton, Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.
The “enduring transmission” categorisation was contained in the “plan B” section of the government’s autumn and winter 2021 strategy document.
Another element of that strategy already being implemented – thanks to Sajid Javid’s press conference last night – is ministers “communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously”.
On Wednesday evening Mr Javid told Britons they needed to “do their bit” to keep transmission down because daily infections could hit 100,000 in the coming months.
Covid: Health minister claims NHS is under ‘sustainable pressure’ - despite warnings from doctors’ union
Health minister Edward Argar has claimed the NHS is under “sustainable pressure” despite the alarm being raise by a major doctors’ union urging the government to introduce measures to control the spread of Covid, writes Ashley Cowburn.
It comes after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, suggested the country could see 100,000 cases a day, but resisted demands to implement “plan B”, which includes advice to work from home, making face masks mandatory and vaccine passports.
On Thursday evening, the British Medical Association (BMA) insisted that the “time is now” for further measures and accused ministers of being “wilfully negligent” for ignoring NHS leaders’ pleas for the implementation of “plan B”.
Minister also dismisses reports of a ‘plan C’ to control the spread of Covid
Health minister refuses to say if Patrick Vallance has advised government to implement 'plan B’
Edward Argar has refused to say whether Patrick Vallance has advised the government to fully implement its coronavirus “plan B” amid rising cases and deaths.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Sir Patrick, the chief scientific adviser, had urged action, the health minister said: “What we have to make a judgement call on is when is the right time to do ‘plan B’ and whether it’s the right time to do ‘plan B’. And it’s not.”
Mr Argar said he understood the desire to know “the binary moment” when the government thought it would trigger the plan, but insisted “it’s not that simple because there’s a range of considerations”.
Pressed further, Mr Argar refused to say whether Sir Patrick had advised implementing “plan B”.
You could argue he failed to deny it, as well...
Suffolk school pupils will have to wear masks again
Secondary school pupils and staff in Suffolk are to be asked to wear face masks again.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk County Council's director of public health, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the virus is "really working its way through that younger population at the moment".
He said: "For me now it is also about trying to keep children in school.
"We have had around 7,300 pupils test positive in the last 28 days. If we can keep transmission rates down, we can also keep more pupils in school as well while the vaccine is being run out for 12- to 15-year-olds."
He said there is a risk if the infection starts to spread to the older population.
Mr Keeble added: "We have started to see that. We have started to see an increase over the last few weeks in that parent age group of those in secondary school."
He also said increases are now also seeing an increase in our over-60s and this "is a concern given, there are more vulnerable people in those age groups".
‘Set an example’: Sajid Javid urges Tory MPs to wear face masks in crowded Commons
Sajid Javid has urged his Tory colleagues to wear masks in the crowded Commons chamber, saying public figures should “set an example” as Covid cases surge.
The health secretary was questioned at a Downing Street press conference over Conservative MPs seen without face coverings in parliament, writes Tom Batchelor.
It was suggested that this could leave members of the government open to allegations they were not practising what they preach.
Ministers ‘have all got our role to play in this’, says health secretary
Warnings of ‘debt crisis’ as millions fall into arrears during pandemic
Experts are warning of a “debt crisis” for millions of families in the UK after research revealed the number of households on low incomes in arrears has tripled since the pandemic hit, writes May Bulman.
A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) into households in the bottom 40 per cent of incomes in the UK – those with an income of £24,752 or less – shows a third of them are in arrears with household bills, compared with around 11 per cent prior to the pandemic.
Of these, 950,000 are in rent arrears, 1.4 million are behind on council tax bills and 1.4 million are behind on electricity and gas bills.
Third of low income households now in arrears with household bills, warns Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Covid: What could a ‘plan C’ involve?
Ministers are reportedly considering additional Covid measures that could amount to a “plan C”, as England prepares for another winter of the pandemic, writes Zoe Tidman.
While the government has so far resisted calls to implement new Covid measures, the health secretary has warned restrictions could return in England in the run-up to Christmas.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Cabinet Office ministers are discussing proposals which could potentially form a “plan C” involving even tougher measures than the existing “Plan B”.
However, a member of the government denied this could include a ban on household mixing at Christmas.
Health secretary rules out putting ‘Plan B’ into place ‘at the moment’
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