Britain’s daily Covid cases fell again today, official data revealed — and hospitalisations plateaued.
Department of Health statistics showed another 26,628 cases were spotted in the last 24 hours, down almost a third on the same time last week.
It marked the sixth day in a row infections have dropped week-on-week, with the decline driven by falling cases in both England and Scotland.
England is yet to suffer a Scotland-style spike in infections, which experts feared would be sparked once children returned to classrooms after the summer holidays.
But its schools have been back for almost a fortnight and the country was hit by a heatwave which saw temperatures reach as high as 30C earlier this week, meaning people spent more time outdoors where the virus finds it harder to spread.
Latest Covid hospitalisations showed another 1,009 people were admitted on September 9, a levelling off from the 988 admissions recorded the same time the previous week.
There were also 185 Covid deaths recorded today, which was 24 less than seven days ago.
It came as Boris Johnson today unveiled his plans for winter warning face masks and Covid passports are being ‘kept in reserve’ in case vaccinations fail to keep the virus at bay.
But while fronting a Downing Street press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister insisted that the UK was ‘incomparably’ better placed to deal with the disease this year.
Booster doses were today recommended for over-50s by the Government’s vaccine advisers, to be administered from six months after the second dose. And yesterday the country’s chief medical officers said 12 to 15 years old should be offered the Covid vaccine.
ENGLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in England by date reported. It reveals the country is yet to see the spike in infections that was recorded in Scotland once children returned to school
SCOTLAND: Pictured above are Covid cases in Scotland by date reported. The blue line shows the average cases which have now begun to fall sharply
NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Northern Ireland by date reported and the average for the cases (blue line). It reveals cases in the UK nation appear to be dropping
Mr Johnson 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.
Professor 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.
And Sir Patrick seemed to send a thinly-veiled message to Mr Johnson by saying that when it comes to measures to stem cases the lesson was ‘you have to go earlier than you want to, you have to go harder than you want to’.
Children may get ‘better’ immunity from catching Covid naturally, scientist says
Children may get ‘better’ immunity from catching Covid naturally instead of getting one dose of a vaccine, a scientist said today amid a row over the UK’s decision to jab 12-year-olds.
Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, claimed it was ‘pretty pointless’ to inoculate youngsters, who face such a vanishingly small risk of falling seriously ill with Covid.
He told MailOnline they would probably develop more protection from catching the virus, in a similar way as to how they build up immunity against other seasonal illnesses.
Covid vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognise the virus and give it the power to fight it off in the future.
But some studies have suggested vaccine-triggered immunity starts to wane within six months, while some data has suggested people who have recovered from the virus may be protected for at least a year.
One Israeli study claimed people who get the vaccine are 13 times more likely to catch Covid than those who have recovered from a previous infection.
Professor Chris Whitty and the other chief medical officers in the UK yesterday said 12 to 15-year-olds should be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Children who are deemed ‘competent’ enough will be able to overrule their parents’ wishes to get vaccinated, if they want to do so.
Mr Johnson was addressing the nation just hours after it emerged his mother had died, and thanked people for their condolences.
Earlier, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was heckled by Tories admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of avoiding brutal curbs.
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.
Despite the tough messaging on the need to be cautious, ministers packed into the Cabinet room this morning with no masks as they were briefed on the contents of the plan.
At his press conference in Downing Street later, Mr Johnson insisted less drastic changes could control the outbreaks this time.
‘When you’ve got a large proportion, as we have now, with immunity, then smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence that we don’t have to go back to the lockdowns of the past,’ he said.
He added: ‘In the meantime, we are confident in the vaccines that have made such a difference to our lives.’
Professor Whitty said the data showed someone in their 30s and unvaccinated was running the same risk as someone in their 70s who is vaccinated.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to 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. He is expected to say 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.
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.
Sir Patrick said the UK is at a ‘pivot point’ in the pandemic and if the situation worsens quickly then ministers must ‘go early’.
The chief scientific adviser said: ‘If you look across the Channel, countries where you’ve got similar levels of immunity and some higher degrees of restrictions, what you can see is cases are going down.
‘So, you can see we’re sort of at that pivot point where things are flattish at the moment.
‘If they go up quickly then, as I’ve said, you’ve got to go early in terms of getting on top of it – you can’t wait until it’s late because you’ve got to do more.’
Professor Whitty said: ‘We’re entering the autumn and winter period at a much higher level in terms of the number of cases, in terms of number of hospitalisations, in terms of number of deaths than we were this time last year.’
He said people do not need a medical degree to know that autumn and winter is a time when respiratory viruses, such as flu and others, are ‘hugely advantaged’. He added: ‘If you’ve not had your vaccination, now is a very good time to do so.’