Boris warns Covid ‘far from over’ as he unveils ‘winter plan’

Boris Johnson today warned that compulsory masks and Covid passports are being ‘kept in reserve’ for the winter if ‘Plan A’ of booster jabs for the over-50s and vaccines for schoolchildren fail to keep the disease under control.

Fronting a press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the PM insisted that the UK was ‘incomparably’ better placed to deal with the disease this year.

He said he hoped the situation could be kept stable with more jabs and the public behaving sensibly – although ministers have made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out. 

Prof Whitty gave a more downbeat assessment saying that infections were ‘high’ relative to last year, and the NHS was under ‘extreme pressure’ even though vaccines were helping significantly. 

Mr Johnson was addressing the nation just hours after it emerged his mother had died, and thanked people for theiir condolences. 

Earlier, Sajid Javid was heckled by Tories admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding brutal curbs.

The Health Secretary said the country must be ‘vigilant’ with the disease expect to surge with colder wetter weather over the coming months.

In a statement to MPs, he stressed that vaccines can help ‘build defences’ against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting next week. 

But Mr Javid was hit with howls of rage from Conservatives in the Commons as he said the blueprint includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory ‘in certain settings’, more working from home and social distancing if the NHS is under threat. 

Vaccine passports will be kept ‘in reserve’ and could be introduced in England with a week’s notice, even though they will not go ahead from next month as originally intended.

Mr Javid said the package is designed to give the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding harsher restrictions, but he said that in a situation such as the emergence of an ‘escape variant’ the government would go further. 

‘Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities,’ he said, adding that he was determined to ‘protect the progress’ that had been made. 

‘The plan shows how we’ll give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions,’ the Cabinet minister said. 

He said it is ‘highly likely’ that frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings will need to have Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in order to be deployed. 

Mr Javid said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will provide an update on international travel ahead of the formal review point on October 1 – with hopes he will scrap the traffic light system and announce PCR tests are being phased out.  The Health Secretary gave the strongest hint yet that fully-jabbed holidaymakers will be able to rely on lateral flow versions instead.

But as well as making their views obvious about the return of masks, Tory MPs demanded the government gives up more powers to impose restrictions on liberties.   

The PM is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon. 

However, scientists are already warning that the country is going into the winter with high levels of cases, saying that ‘does not bode well’ for hopes of avoiding further restrictions.

There is also a widening split between the approach in England and Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon  is bringing in Covid passports for nightclubs and large events. The SNP leader also says school pupils will need to wear face coverings indoors until at least the October holidays, and large in-person lectures will not be happening at universities.    








Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government's 'winter plan' - admitting that ministers can only give Britons the 'best possible chance' of avoiding brutal curbs

Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government's 'winter plan' - admitting that ministers can only give Britons the 'best possible chance' of avoiding brutal curbs

Sajid Javid made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out today as he unveiled the government’s ‘winter plan’ – admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding brutal curbs

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Leicester yesterday) is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Leicester yesterday) is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Leicester yesterday) is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement

Javid slams GPs for failing to see patients face to face amid pandemic  

Sajid Javid today took aim at GPs for not doing face-to-face appointments.

The Health Secretary delivered a warning that the government ‘do a lot more’ to ensure doctors go back to seeing patients in person.

The comments came after Conservative MP Dean Russell raised concerns over some GP surgeries in his Watford constituency ‘still not opening their doors’ to see patients.

 ‘Does he agree with me that we should encourage those GP surgeries to start opening up to help with the backlog and help see people face-to-face?’

Mr Javid replied: ‘Yes, I agree with (Mr Russell). He’s right to raise this.

‘I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.

‘But we’re way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access.

‘We intend to do a lot more about it.’ 

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The Winter Plan document lays out the details of Plan A and Plan B. But although it does not go into detail about other contingencies, it states that further steps cannot be ruled out.   

‘While the Government expects that, with strong engagement from the public and businesses, these contingency measures should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence in autumn or winter, the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees,’  the document said.

‘The Government remains committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed but more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort.’ 

Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne, who was among those protesting when Mr Javid threatened mandatory face coverings, urged the Government to review the 1984 Public Health Act used to ‘take away our liberties’.

‘He retains all the powers of the 1984 Public Health Act, which we used to take away our liberties without parliamentary prior authority,’ Sir Desmond said.

‘Will he undertake to review and give us a new Public Health Act?’

Mr Javid replied: ‘We keep all rules and acts under review at all times.’ 

Conservative Steve Baker noted the public health powers ‘are still there’, as he asked: ‘(He) amongst other things is keeping Covid-status certification in reserve, he’s leaving mass asymptomatic testing in place together with contact tracing…the public health powers are still there of course allowing him to lock us down at the stroke of his pen without prior votes or any formal way of justifying the proportionality of those powers.

‘So when can we expect all of these things to be dealt with so that we can all have the certainty that will come from knowing that we’re living with an endemic disease, living with the disease thanks to the vaccine in the way that we live with the endemic disease flu so that we can all get on with our lives.’

Mr Javid replied: ‘I know (he) may not agree with every measure that the Government is keeping in place… I hope he agrees that at least those measures are the right measures and the kind of things that need to be done as we live with Covid-19.’

Downing Street has refused to give any indication of what metric will be used to trigger restrictions in the plan. 

‘As we did with the road map, we never looked to one single metric to decide when to act,’ the PM’s spokesman said.

‘It is important to take a holistic approach and consider a range of data.

‘Obviously the number of patients in hospital is an important factor, as is the interaction with other indicators, such as the rate of increase in hospitalisations, things like the ratio of cases to hospitalisations, and the trajectory of new cases.

‘All of those sort of things would need to be factored in alongside vaccine effectiveness, waning immunity, etc.

‘It is right to look at a range of metrics and not be overly prescriptive and consider the latest advice we are getting from experts, like Professor Whitty and others.’

In a gloomy assessment last night, Chris Whitty warned that hospitals and schools faced another winter of disruption.

Ministers yesterday accepted the chief medical officer’s advice that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered doses.

Secondary pupils are to be offered jabs at school from next week, despite concerns that the move could stigmatise those who refuse and lead to ‘bullying’.

Mr Zahawi confirmed this morning that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes in some circumstances, although he insisted it is likely to be a ‘very rare occurence’. 

Government scientists today also gave the green light for booster shots for the over-50s, starting this month.

The vaccine advisory panel recommended a third dose for roughly 30million people aged 50 and over who received their second injection at least six months ago.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that the jabs would help ‘keep the lid on’ the virus and make it more likely the country could have a normal winter.

Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the plans on the back of growing real-world data in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a major British study, which suggested vaccine-induced immunity wanes within months.

There had been mounting pressure for the UK to follow Israel, the US, and other nations which have been booster dosing their citizens for months.

Britons who are eligible will be given the Pfizer vaccine in the first instance, no matter which jab they were originally immunised with. When there are supply constraints, the Moderna vaccine will be offered as a booster in the form of a half dose.

Officials said there was more evidence that the mRNA vaccines were safe and effective when given as a third dose, which is why they are not recommending AstraZeneca’s.

Moderna’s is being recommended as a half dose because the lower dosage is associated with fewer side effects and still produces a strong immune response, the JCVI said.

People who are invited for their booster Covid vaccine will be able to get their flu jab at the same time, in the opposite arm.

ALL over-50s will get booster Covid jabs: 32m Brits will be offered Pfizer or Moderna as health chiefs sign off on rollout 

A mass Covid booster vaccine campaign for tens of millions of Britons will be launched next week in a race to avoid a winter lockdown, it was announced today.

The Government’s vaccine advisory panel finally signed off on the plans after weeks of deliberation, with third doses now being recommended for roughly 32million over-50s, as well as frontline health and care workers.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that the booster programme would provide ‘very good’ immunity and help ‘keep the lid on’ the epidemic this winter.

The NHS will start inviting eligible Britons from next week. People are only being invited to come forward if they had their second injection at least six months ago, which officials said was the ‘sweet spot’ for boosters.

Third doses will be rolled out to the top nine priority groups who were first in line during the initial Covid vaccination programme, with the elderly and vulnerable first in line.

It took about four months to cover those groups with a first dose earlier this year, but officials expect the booster scheme to quicker now because the infrastructure and expertise is already in place.

Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the plans on the back of growing real-world data in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a major British study, which showed vaccine-induced immunity wanes slightly within months.

Britons who are eligible will be given the Pfizer vaccine in the first instance, no matter which jab they were originally immunised with. When there are supply constraints, the Moderna vaccine will be offered as a booster, but only as a half dose.

Officials said there was more evidence that the mRNA vaccines were safe and effective when given as a third dose, which is why they are not recommending AstraZeneca’s. Moderna’s is being given as a half dose because the lower dosage is associated with fewer side effects and still produces a strong immune response, the JCVI said.

The announcement comes ahead of what is widely accepted will be a challenging winter for the NHS with an unusually low amount of natural immunity to flu and other respiratory viruses due to more than a year of social restrictions.

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Professor Van-Tam said that as a 57-year-old healthcare worker, who will be eligible for a booster vaccine, he would be ‘content’ with getting a full Pfizer or half Moderna dose.

Mr Johnson said overnight he would be setting out ‘a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made’.

He added: ‘The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.’

Professor Whitty said: ‘Anybody who believes the big risk of Covid is all in the past and it’s all too late to be making a difference has not understood where we are going to head as we go into autumn and winter. There will continue to be challenges and pressure on the NHS and continue to be disruption to education.’

Downing Street is relatively relaxed about high infection levels, pointing out that the average of 30,000 a day is well below the 100,000 predicted by some in July. 

But they are increasingly concerned by rising hospital admissions. Another 1,000 were recorded yesterday and the total in hospital stands at 8,256 – a 37 per cent increase over the past month.

Pressure on other NHS services is expected to start to become intense if the total hits 10,000.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said current data suggest that ‘we’re not out of the woods’ and the Covid-19 figures ‘do not bode well for winter’.

He told Sky News: ‘We can see from the figures that we’re still nearing a thousand deaths a week and thousands of hospitalised patients that are challenging capacity in our hospitals – and of course making care for non-Covid patients extremely difficult as well because of the stretch of the staff that are in those hospitals who have been under pressure for 18 months now.

‘So it’s pretty clear I think, from the data and from individual sources, that we’re not out of the woods and it doesn’t bode well for going into winter at all.’

He added: ‘If we cast our minds back to July 19, many scientists including myself, were saying that ‘we need to take this slowly because we have the transmission rates are far too high to be removing all restrictions, and this will have a knock on effect – in other words we wouldn’t get away with this as a country moving into winter’.

‘And what we’re seeing now is really the result of that advice not being heeded and now we’re in a position where we’re talking about lockdowns again.

‘So I think that with the correct planning, this could have been avoided.’

Whitehall exercises conducted over the summer warned that schools and care homes, as well as the NHS, are both vulnerable to a surge in cases this autumn.

Today’s plan will set out measures to prevent another lockdown this winter.

While it will focus on the remaining stages of the vaccination programme, it will also warn other restrictions may be needed to prevent cases getting out of control. The plan will focus initially on causing the least disruption to normal life and the economy.

Masks will be top of the list, with some insiders warning that new guidance – or even compulsion – could be introduced within weeks. One Whitehall source said: ‘Masks provide some benefit without having an impact on people’s lives or the economy so they are the obvious place to start.’

Mr Javid appeared to rule out vaccine passports over the weekend. But ministers met again yesterday to discuss their possible introduction for nightclubs and mass events.








Earlier this month the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation - known as myocarditis - in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose

Earlier this month the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation - known as myocarditis - in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose

Earlier this month the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation – known as myocarditis – in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose

Around 3million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move last night claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter. Professor Whitty held a press conference with JCVI chief Professor Wei Shen Lim (left) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine

Around 3million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move last night claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter. Professor Whitty held a press conference with JCVI chief Professor Wei Shen Lim (left) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine

Around 3million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move last night claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter. Professor Whitty held a press conference with JCVI chief Professor Wei Shen Lim (left) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine

The CMOs admitted the rollout will likely only stop about 30,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds between now and March. But the vaccines will prevent tens of thousands more from having to self-isolate and miss school as a result, they claim. Modelling of the winter term estimated that without the vaccines there could be about 89,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds, compared to 59,000 with the rollout. Without vaccination they warn of 320,000 school absences by March, whereas this could be reduced to 220,000 with the jabs

Plans to vaccinate under-16s descend into chaos 

Plans to vaccinate all over-12s across the UK descended into further confusion and controversy today as Britain’s vaccines minister admitted Year 7 children could ignore their parents’ wishes — while Tory MPs warned the jab policy will ‘tear families apart’.

A gloomy Chris Whitty warned yesterday that schools faced another winter of disruption and advised those aged 12 to 15 should be offered single doses of Pfizer’s jab from next week. No10’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the NHS was ready to begin inoculations from next Wednesday.

There are concerns that while parental consent will be sought, it will not be needed if the healthcare worker administering the jab considers the child is competent to make the decision themselves.

Today Mr Zahawi admitted that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes on Covid jabs but he admitted it is likely to be ‘a very rare occurrence’. He also said parents shouldn’t be ‘stigmatised’ if they are hesitant about their children being vaccinated, given that top advisers insisted the benefits only marginally outweighed the risks.

But in more confusion, a senior member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, suggested there would be a sliding scale of competency, meaning that it would be easier for a 16-year-old to overrule a parent than for a 12-year-old who is ‘less likely to be deemed competent’ under the ‘Gillick test’, which has been in place for the medical treatment of minors since the 1980s.

Cotswolds Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told MPs he finds Covid jabs for secondary school children — and the rows it will cause — ‘deeply troubling’.

He said: ‘It will pit parents against parents. Parents against teachers with a poor child stuck in the middle wondering what to do, for very little benefit for the child themselves, with a lack of long-term data of the potential harm.

‘And, above all, what really concerns me about this is the Gillick doctrine of treating children without parental consent will become the norm for a whole range of medical procedures.’

Fellow Tory MP Marcus Fysh has claimed it is a ‘very dark day for our country’ while Ian Duncan Smith said he is sure the vaccines diktat will cause disputes within families after Mr Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons last night.

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Mr Johnson yesterday said he wanted to ‘avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can’. But a Whitehall source confirmed they remained a live option.

‘The data shows we do not need to go ahead with vaccine passports in September as originally planned,’ the source said. ‘But we need to hold them in reserve for when they are needed. We still think they might help keep businesses open that might otherwise have to close.’

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, called for the passport plan to be scrapped as ‘pointless, damaging and discriminatory’.

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College said giving teenagers a first shot was the priority. He also said evidence from Israel suggested boosters for the wider population were ‘very effective at further driving down transmission and infection’. 

Mr Johnson be flanked by Professor Whitty and chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance when he faces questions about the winter plan this afternoon.

Ministers will meet this week to discuss scrapping post-arrival PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers while some measures under the Coronavirus Act are set to be repealed.

Plans to vaccinate all over-12s across the UK descended into further confusion and controversy today as Britain’s vaccines minister admitted Year 7 children could ignore their parents’ wishes — while Tory MPs warned the jab policy will ‘tear families apart’.

Mr Zahawi said the NHS was ready to begin inoculations from next Wednesday.

There are concerns that while parental consent will be sought, it will not be needed if the healthcare worker administering the jab considers the child is competent to make the decision themselves.

Today Mr Zahawi admitted that 12-year-olds will be able to override their parents’ wishes on Covid jabs but he admitted it is likely to be ‘a very rare occurrence’. He also said parents shouldn’t be ‘stigmatised’ if they are hesitant about their children being vaccinated, given that top advisers insisted the benefits only marginally outweighed the risks.

But in more confusion, a senior member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, suggested there would be a sliding scale of competency, meaning that it would be easier for a 16-year-old to overrule a parent than for a 12-year-old who is ‘less likely to be deemed competent’ under the ‘Gillick test’, which has been in place for the medical treatment of minors since the 1980s.

Cotswolds Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told MPs he finds Covid jabs for secondary school children — and the rows it will cause — ‘deeply troubling’.

He said: ‘It will pit parents against parents. Parents against teachers with a poor child stuck in the middle wondering what to do, for very little benefit for the child themselves, with a lack of long-term data of the potential harm.

‘And, above all, what really concerns me about this is the Gillick doctrine of treating children without parental consent will become the norm for a whole range of medical procedures.’

Fellow Tory MP Marcus Fysh has claimed it is a ‘very dark day for our country’ while Ian Duncan Smith said he is sure the vaccines diktat will cause disputes within families after Mr Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons last night.

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