Covid vaccines for under-12s and the return of mandatory face masks are needed to tackle a surge in the virus this winter, Tony Blair has said.

A report by the former Prime Minister's think tank also says ministers should set a target of 500,000 Covid booster jabs a day and act “rapidly and decisively” to avoid lockdown.

It comes amid fears a fresh wave of disease could overwhelm the NHS.

Health chiefs confirmed on Wednesday there had been 49,139 new cases (up 17% on the previous week), 179 more deaths (up 21%) and 869 new hospitalisations (up 11%).

With cases rising, the Tony Blair Institute, said ministers should make approval for jabs for under-12s "a priority".

The former PM said ministers reactivate the vaccine infrastructure set up earlier in the year and start using the AstraZeneca vaccine for boosters.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid alongside Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). (

Image:

PA)

The Government should also aim to ensure half of all 12 to 15-year-olds are vaccinated by the start of December and “urgently explore” introducing a Covid passport, the report said.

Mr Blair said the measures were "based on evidence from round the world as well as our own experience of what works".

He said: “No one wants to see more restrictions on how we go about our lives.

"Everyone hopes that the damage of Covid-19 is substantially behind us even as we battle its legacy.

"However, the worst that could happen is that we go back into anything approaching the lockdowns we experienced during the past 18 months. We're not saying this will happen. But the risk is there now.

"Once well ahead of the rest of Europe, we're now behind Germany, France and Italy in terms of cases and even vaccinations.

"So, from an abundance of caution, a sensible sentiment given the history of Covid-19, we believe the Government should rapidly and decisively accelerate measures to give us the best possible chance of avoiding the disease spiralling again."

Ministers told the public they must "learn to live with the virus" when it dropped mandatory face masks in most settings earlier this year.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid speaks during a press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room (

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POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid signalled on Wednesday that the UK may be headed for more restrictions if people failed to take precautions, such as wearing face coverings in crowded places, washing their hands and getting a booster jab, if eligible.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, he warned cases could yet rise to 100,000 a day, saying: “We’ll 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 added. "Thanks to the vaccination programme, yes the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths has significantly weakened, but it’s not broken.”

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