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Covid UK – live: Javid warns cases could hit 100,000 a day and Harries urges vaccinated to wear mask

Watch live as Sajid Javid leads Downing Street press conference on booster jabs

The UK could see 100,000 coronavirus cases a day this winter, Sajid Javid has warned.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the health secretary added that Covid-19 restrictions could be reintroduced if people failed to do their “bit”.

As part of the government’s bid to encourage the public to take individual responsibility, he advised people to have their booster shots, take regular lateral flow tests and socialise outdoors where possible. Otherwise, the UK “could lose” its progress against the virus, he said.

This comes as almost 50,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the UK on Wednesday, a day after the country saw its highest daily death toll since March.

Dismissing pleas from NHS leaders for the government to introduce mandatory face masks and other measures under “plan B”, Mr Javid said the pressure currently facing the NHS was not “unsustainable”.

However, Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told reporters in Downing Street that it was “really important” for the vaccinated to wear masks, a position in line with “plan B”.

She added that the country was “kicking off the winter” with very high coronavirus case rates and that the daily death toll was “moving in the wrong direction”.

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NHS bosses urge implementation of ‘plan B’ amid soaring cases and deaths

The head of the NHS Confederation has urged ministers to implement their “plan B” for containing coronavirus this winter, amid spiking infections and deaths.

The BBC reported Matthew Taylor as saying: “The NHS is preparing for what could be the most challenging winter on record.

“It is time for the government to enact plan B of its strategy without delay because without pre-emptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis.”

Whitehall “should not wait for Covid infections to rocket and for NHS pressures to be sky high before the panic alarm is sounded”, he added.

Plan B involves the reintroduction of mandatory face masks and advice to work from home where possible, as well as the introduction of vaccine passports.

Plan A, currently in place, is for the vaccine rollout to reach most of the population and provide booster jabs where necessary.

On Wednesday morning, a cabinet minister ruled out a full winter lockdown, calling any discussion of the idea “unhelpful”.

Yesterday’s one-day death toll of 223 was the highest since March.

You can read more about that below:

3.1 million people so far have had Covid booster jabs in ‘extremely slow’ roll-out

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Breaking: Government rules out return to lockdown this winter

Boris Johnson’s government is ruling out another Covid lockdown or “further restrictions” this winter, despite NHS leaders’ call for ministers to enforce “plan B” curbs.

Amid another surge in Covid cases, the NHS Confederation has urged ministers to implement the back-up strategy – including bringing back mandatory face coverings in public places and asking people to work from home.

But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was not interested in bringing back curbs. “We don’t want to go into lockdown or further restrictions,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

Lockdown talk ‘completely unhelpful’, says cabinet minister

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Britain must address slow booster vaccine campaign and rollout of jabs to teens, Kwarteng admits

A cabinet minister has admitted the government “really needs to address” the slow pace of the Covid-19 booster vaccine campaign.

Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the rollout – a key plank of the government’s “plan A” to mitigate coronavirus this winter – was working, if slower than hoped.

He told Sky News the vaccine rollout had been “the most successful thing we've done” and urged eligible people to accept a third dose.

He said: “The critical thing, as my colleague the health secretary has said, is about hospitalisation and also deaths, and, thank God, those figures are much, much lower than they were, certainly, at the beginning of the year.”

He added the government was concerned about rising deaths, but said: “You'll remember at the beginning of the year we had hundreds, if not thousands, a day.

“Mercifully that hasn't happened and, as the health secretary said, it's something we're going to have to live with and I think we are managing the situation.”

Addressing the provision of jabs to children, he said: “I mean, it's easy to say that things aren't working when they've just started or we need to push them more dynamically, but it is working.”

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Kwarteng insists government’s Covid response ‘worked'

The UK’s growing economy is proof the government’s Covid-19 response was successful, Kwasi Kwarteng has claimed.

Ruling out a return to lockdown this winter, the business secretary told Sky News in an interview: “Throughout this process, there've been people saying the lockdown was unnecessary, there have been other people saying we should continue the lockdown. We've really plotted a path between those two extremes.

“I think it's worked and that's why, one of the reasons, we've got the fastest-growing economy in the G7, it's 7.5 per cent this year, that's the prediction, which is faster than any other comparable country, certainly in the G7.

“There's a reason for that, and that's because we've managed to successfully roll out the vaccine and reopen the economy.”

Britain’s economy may be growing – at a modest rate – but a supply crisis and shortage of lorry drivers driven both by coronavirus and Brexit is holding it back.

Prices for everyday goods are rising and Britons have been warned to expect food shortages over winter.

The UK also has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, despite Mr Kwarteng’s claim the government’s approach to the pandemic “worked”.

In addition, other ministers have admitted they would have responded differently in hindsight. Last week Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, apologised to the nation following the publication a damning report by MPs that detailed how the government failed to protect its citizens.

The failure to lock down early enough in March 2020 was one of the worst public health errors the country has seen, MPs concluded.

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NHS ‘at the edge’ already, Confederation chief warns

He has warned that the health service is “on the edge” of being overwhelmed, even before winter has begun.

He told the BBC: “I talk to health leaders every day, and I have literally not spoken to any leader who doesn't say that their service is under intense pressure now. This is the middle of October. Things are only going to get worse.

“The health service is right at the edge ... If you push much further we will not be able to provide the level of service that people need to have.”

His comments come after The Independent revealed some patients were waiting two full days for a hospital bed after visiting A&E. And others have been forced to wait outside hospital for up to 13 hours in the ambulance that took them there.

Exclusive: ‘We are now on the absolute brink of collapse,’ worker tells The Independent

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Pandemic had ‘devastating and lasting’ impact on clinically vulnerable patients, finds report

The pandemic has had a “devastating and lasting impact” on the more than four million people who were identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable and asked to shield as the virus tore through communities across the UK, a report has found.

Researchers said that clinically extremely vulnerable people experienced a higher rate of deaths compared to the general population – and that the mental and physical health implications are still being felt today, writes Tom Batchelor.

The higher risk of complications from Covid was compounded by a reorganisation of NHS services in the early stages of the pandemic which led to significant unmet health needs and worsening mental health among this group, research by the Health Foundation’s Networked Data Lab found.

Covid affected physical and mental health for many of more than four million people advised to shield, writes Tom Batchelor

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Delta sub-variant ‘unlikely to change picture dramatically'

The newly discovered Delta sub-variant of coronavirus that is growing in England is not likely to change the Covid-19 picture, Oxford Vaccine Group chief Andrew Pollard said on Wednesday.

The subvariant, designated as AY.4.2, is growing and accounted for about 6 per cent of all sequences generated, the UK Health Security Agency said last week, but it has not been labelled as “under investigation” or a “variant of concern”.

“Discovery of new variants is of course important to monitor, but it doesn't indicate that that new variant is going to be the next one to replace Delta,” Sir Andrew told the BBC.

“Indeed even if it does, Delta is incredibly good at transmitting in a vaccinated population and a new one may be a bit better but it's unlikely to change the picture dramatically from where we are today.”

This week The Independent revealed Oxford experts were trying to develop a new vaccine to target Delta.

In case you missed it, read more below:

Exclusive: Early work has begun on updating original Covid vaccine, with experts saying a Delta-focused vaccine could help to better tackle widespread transmission in the UK

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Explained: What are the ‘plan B’ measures NHS chiefs are asking government to implement this winter?

NHS chiefs have called on the government to take urgent action to halt the spread of coronavirus to avoid a winter crisis, writes Holly Bancroft.

The NHS Confederation, a membership body of health care trusts and commissioning groups, said that ministers’ “plan B” strategy should be implemented.

But what is “plan B”? Read on...

The NHS confederation said that “Plan B” strategy should be implemented due to risisng Covid cases

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Booster campaign going too slowly, Sage member warns

Andrew Hayward, a UCL epidemiologist and member of Sage, has said the UK must speed up its vaccine rollout.

He told Times Radio: “We are entirely reliant on the vaccination programme to reduce hospitalisations and deaths, and we know immunity from those vaccines, it has waned quite a lot over the course of five or six months, and there is evidence it is not from infection but also severe disease.

“It is important for people if they have been offered a vaccine to take that up.”

Prof Hayward also said the booster programme could take time to roll out, "by which time we could have had a major peak”.

He added: “We know from the NHS they are already experiencing great pressures on hospitals, and that is going to get worse as we go into winter.”

Prof Hayward said people who can easily work from home should do so, and everyone should practise social distancing. He added: “Wearing masks will make a difference, and we have, as a society, given up on that, which is a shame.

“There are tools we can use and, while some are an inconvenience, they aren't a drag on the economy.”

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Russia posts new record figures

Russia has just reported a record 1,028 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours as well as 34,073 new infections.

It comes a day after Moscow's mayor announced four months of stay-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s in the capital, while the national government proposed a week-long workplace shutdown to cope with fast-rising cases.

The Kremlin has blamed the surge on Russia's slow vaccination campaign.