Sajid Javid today insisted it is not time for the Government to trigger its coronavirus Plan B as he urged people to get their booster jabs to ensure the nation can ‘look forward to Christmas together’.
The Health Secretary said that the country is ‘not at that point’ of needing restrictions to be re-imposed.
But he said ‘if we needed to take further measures with Plan B then we would do so’ as he stressed the Government is ‘not complacent in any way’.
Bookings for coronavirus booster jabs are opening this week for people aged 40 and over.
Ministers have faced fresh questions over whether they will push the button on Plan B after a coronavirus surge across Europe prompted some countries to return to lockdown measures.
The Netherlands has confirmed a three-week partial lockdown while Austria is set to impose a lockdown on unvaccinated people.
A further 40,941 Covid cases were confirmed in the UK as of yesterday morning while a further 150 people had died within 28 days of testing positive.
Ministers have faced fresh questions over whether they will push the button on Plan B after a coronavirus surge across Europe prompted some countries to return to lockdown measures
The Government’s Plan A for tackling coronavirus is to rely on the vaccination programme and testing to limit the spread of the disease.
Plan B would see vaccine passports required for attending certain events and the return of face masks being compulsory in certain settings.
Mr Javid was asked during an interview on Sky News this morning if people should brace themselves for a return of restrictions before Christmas.
The Health Secretary said: ‘As we all look forward to Christmas, it is very sad to see cases rising, surging, in certain parts of Europe.
‘We have always known that this virus, it loves the winter, it likes the cold, darker days that winter brings and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves against that.
‘What has made a real difference here in the UK is our booster programme, our hugely successful booster programme.
‘Almost 15 million booster jabs given already, covering some quarter of the population over the age of 12, almost 400,000 a day across the UK.
‘That is making the difference and we know that because just this week there was more data published after more studies that shows that the protection you get from your booster… it almost doubles from 50 per cent to over 90 per cent.
‘I will be extending the booster programme starting tomorrow to 40 to 49-year-olds.
‘But we have all got a role to play in this, in our national vaccination programme and if you are eligible, whether it is your first shot, second shot or your third shot, please come forward and let’s look forward to Christmas together.’
Told that it could be time for the Government to trigger Plan B, Mr Javid replied: ‘We made a tough decision back at the start of summer.
‘Other countries didn’t follow our course and we decided that of course we want to start opening up but if you are going to do that it is best to do it into summer, it is far safer to do it in summer.
‘Sadly other countries in Europe did not do that. But looking ahead, as we look down towards winter, we need to make sure that we remain cautious, we are not complacent in any way.
‘I have mentioned the importance of the booster programme but in terms of any other potential measures, we have said all along we have got Plan A and that is where we firmly are at the moment.
‘If we needed to take further measures with Plan B then we would do so but we are not at that point.’
People aged 40 and over will be able to book their third coronavirus vaccination as of tomorrow. Sixteen and 17-year-olds will also be able to book in for their second jab.
People eligible for a booster can get the top-up jab from six months after having their second dose.
But they will be able to book their appointment from 7am on Monday when the National Booking Service opens for people aged 40 and over.
More than 14 million boosters and third doses had been administered in the UK as of Friday, with more than one million top-up jabs recorded since Tuesday.
Boris Johnson said last week that he could not rule out a lockdown over the Christmas period.
The Prime Minister said that while the data did not show, at the moment, that any additional measures were needed, he could not give a guarantee for the coming weeks and months.
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: ‘Clearly we cannot rule anything out and the most important thing people can do to prevent further NPIs from being taken is to – non-pharmaceutical interventions that is, further restrictions – get the boosters.’
The PM warned there were ‘storm clouds’ gathering over parts of Europe with a ‘new wave’ of the virus sweeping across the continent.
‘We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent,’ he said.
‘Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.
‘It shows us that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.’