UK

NHS pressure sees No10 hint at return of Covid restrictions

Return of face masks and working from home? Number 10 hints a ‘challenging’ winter could mean further restrictions – amid claims booster jabs are being delivered too slowly while cases soar

  • Officials said Britain should prepare for a ‘challenging few months’ after 49.156 infections were recorded yesterday
  •  Experts are concerned the booster programme was moving too slowly 
  •  Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all significantly higher in the UK than in western Europe


The spectres of compulsory face masks, vaccine passports and working from home were raised yesterday as increased Covid hospital cases sparked a Downing Street warning.

Officials said Britons should prepare for a ‘challenging few months’ after 49,156 infections were recorded yesterday – the highest figure in three months.

Experts are concerned the booster programme was moving too slowly and Sage members yesterday warned ‘other measures’ may be needed to relieve pressure on the NHS.

Last night Boris Johnson’s spokesman said there were ‘currently’ no plans to reintroduce restrictions but that they were keeping ‘a very close watch on the latest statistics’

 Last night Boris Johnson’s spokesman said there were ‘currently’ no plans to reintroduce restrictions but that they were keeping ‘a very close watch on the latest statistics’.

Britain led the world in the initial vaccine rollout, but it has now slumped behind Italy, Spain and France in terms of the percentage of the population to be double-jabbed.

Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all significantly higher in the UK than in western Europe. Yesterday another 45 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported.

All over-50s and the clinically vulnerable can get a booster jab from six months after their second dose. But only 3.7million of the 8.3million eligible have so far come forward.

Officials said Britons should prepare for a 'challenging few months' after 49,156 infections were recorded yesterday ¿ the highest figure in three months

Officials said Britons should prepare for a ‘challenging few months’ after 49,156 infections were recorded yesterday – the highest figure in three months

If this slow pace continues, it will take until January to offer third jabs to all over-50s – with their immunity waning all the time. There are also concerns over low vaccine uptake among children. Only 15 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds in England have had their first dose, despite nearly one in ten having the virus last week.

Last month Mr Johnson set out a ‘Plan B’ for further restrictions – including masks, vaccine passports and home working – if the virus surges.

Officials have suggested this will be triggered if hospitalisations start to top 1,000 a day – and the UK is approaching that figure. Yesterday another 915 Covid admissions to NHS hospitals were recorded, the highest figure in a month.

The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘There is absolutely no plan to introduce Plan B currently. We retain that capability if required if we believe the NHS is coming under unsustainable pressure.

‘We obviously keep very close watch on the latest statistics. We always knew the coming months would be challenging.’ Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of Sage, told Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘We shouldn’t be complacent because there is still huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure and for there to be a lot of unnecessary deaths.

Last month Mr Johnson set out a 'Plan B' for further restrictions ¿ including masks, vaccine passports and home working ¿ if the virus surges (stock image)

Last month Mr Johnson set out a ‘Plan B’ for further restrictions – including masks, vaccine passports and home working – if the virus surges (stock image)

‘So we need to get the vaccination rates up and we need to be prepared potentially to think about other measures if things do get out of control.’ Yesterday head teacher unions called for children to be allowed to use walk-in vaccination centres in England to boost the nunbers jabbed.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘Those who want to get the vaccination should be able to do so as quickly as possible.

‘We know that the high level of cases amongst this age group has led to some pupils who want the vaccine not being able to get it in school, either because they are absent on the day or because they have tested positive for Covid-19 within the last 28 days.’

Enforcement of Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme came into effect yesterday. The policy will apply to nightclubs, strip clubs and unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with over 4,000 and any event with more than 0,000 people.

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