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Asked if a winter shutdown was likely, Mr Javid acknowledged that no one “wants to see another lockdown” but said it would be careless for him “to say that this or that is 100 per cent ruled out”.
It comes after Boris Johnson declined to rule out a face-mask mandate and vaccine passports as part of a “plan B” to tackle a potential infection surge this winter.
Elsewhere, data obtained through FoI requests by the PA news agency shows the Scottish government wasted a total of 4,448 doses of Covid vaccine in the week ending 1 August, and a massive 34,026 between February and July.
The Scottish government responded by saying that given “the scale of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, some vaccine wastage has been unavoidable for a variety of reasons”, which allegedly include issues with storage, expired doses and “specific clinical situations where there may be some dose loss”.
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling Covid coverage. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates.
Government’s ‘plan B’ to tackle rising cases may include vaccine passports and masks
Boris Johnson has said it is “not sensible” to rule out vaccine passports, which may be necessary along with masks and a return working from home as part of the government’s “plan B” to tackle rising cases in autumn.
Earlier, Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed all over-50s in the UK – as well as those in other vulnerable groups – would be offered a booster shot to maintain protection levels as the country enters the autumn.
But, if the situation significantly worsens, a contingency plan has been drawn up to avoid any future lockdowns.
Mr Johnson said the government’s plan B had “a number of different shots in the locker” with which it could respond if cases started rising.
“You wouldn’t necessarily play them all at once, far from it, you would want to do things in a graduated way,” he said.
“We’re now in a situation when because so many of the population have some degree of immunity, smaller changes in the way we’re asking people to behave can have a bigger impact.”
Speaking on Sky News this morning, health secretary Sajid Javid said plan B could be triggered by a new variant of concern, pressures on the NHS and the level of hospitalisation.
However, he declined to put a number on how many cases or admissions would trigger plan B.
‘Tens of thousands of deaths’ still a possibility, Sage member says
While the UK is in a much better place than last winter, it is still possible we will see tens of thousands of coronavirus deaths in winter, a Sage member has said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Andrew Hayward said: “This winter is definitely very different from last winter.
“When we went into last winter, about 10 per cent of us had antibodies to Covid, this winter 90 per cent of us have antibodies.
“So, we’ve moved away from a situation where there’s a potential for hundreds of thousands of deaths to a situation where we may still see tens of thousands of deaths.”
He added that the “number of hospitalisations” is a more relevant figure than the number of cases when looking at what may trigger plan B.
“We should be more focused on the number of hospitalisations and the ability of the NHS to cope,” he said.
Ruling out another lockdown would be “irreponsible,” health secretary says
Health secretary Sajid Javid has this morning declined to rule out another lockdown.
He told BBC Breakfast it would be “irresponsible for any health minister in the world” to rule out another lockdown, especially in the face of “vaccine-escape variants” which may or may not emerge in the future.
“No-one wants to see another lockdown, I certainly don’t. I don’t think we are going to need to see another lockdown. I think the vaccines are working,” he said.
“But I think it would be irresponsible for any health minister in the world to say that this or that is 100 per cent ruled out, not least because I just don’t know whether at some time in the future – next year, the year after, the year after that – there might be a vaccine-escape variant that doesn’t work with the current suite of vaccines.
“We always have to be vigilant but we have made huge gains in the last few months.
“We have done those together as a country and the plan yesterday we set out is a plan that will help protect those gains.”
Government must “act quickly” is situation worsens, experts say
The government has been told it must be quick to move from plan A to plan B in the face of a worsening situation in autumn and winter.
Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organisation special envoy for the global Covid-19 response, told Sky News: “Speed is of the essence. We’ve been through this before and we know, as a result of past experience, that acting quickly and acting quite robustly is the way you get on top of this virus, then life can go on.”
Sir Patrick Vallance told a news briefing on Tuesday: “When you make a move, you have to go earlier than you think you want to, you have to go harder than you think you want to and you have to make sure you have got the right geographical coverage.
“So, if this goes in the wrong direction and cases go up, followed by hospitalisations, it’s important that the measures are put in place early enough and they are significant enough.”
Charity calls for more support immunocompromised as schielding scheme ends
A blood cancer charity called for more support for those shielding from Covid-19 as the programme was scrapped following the success of the vaccine rollout.
An update to the government webpage for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable on Tuesday said: “Given the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, the shielding programme has now ended.”
More details on the ending of the scheme are expected today.
Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, said that clinically extremely vulnerable patients must not be “left behind” as society reopens.
He said: “We are extremely disappointed that the shielded patient list is ending with no clear plans to provide support for immunocompromised patients.
“This news will be a blow to blood cancer patients who are vulnerable to Covid-19 because the vaccines are less likely to protect them.
“As Covid-19 transmissions remain high, Anthony Nolan is urging the Government to fund more vital research into the vaccines, provide clear advice and support, and appoint a Government lead for people who are immunocompromised.
“The Government cannot leave these patients behind as society continues to open up.”
EU to send 200M more vaccine doses to Africa
The European Union has pledged to send a further 200 million vaccine doses to Africa.
The donation, which adds to the 250 million doses already pledged, will be delivered in full by the middle of next year.
Announcing the latest measure aimed at speeding up global vaccination, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it an “investment in solidarity and it is an investment also in global health.”
She said: “Our first and most urgent priority is to speed up global vaccination.
“With less than 1 per cent of global doses administered to lower income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious.” She said that on top of delivering 700 million doses to Europeans, the 27-nation bloc had also sent as many to a combined 130 nations.
Staff shortages threaten French hospitals as vaccine deadline arrives
Some French hospitals fear staff shortages could add to their strain as the deadline for all staff to get their first vaccine dose arrives today.
Vaccinations for medical care, home care and emergency workers in France were made mandatory over the summer, with those who miss the deadline facing suspension from their jobs.
If health care workers have had only one dose, they have to take a virus test every three days until they have completed the second one. The deadline for both jabs is October 15.
Approximately 90 per cent of healthcare workers have been vaccinated in the country, with some 300,000 still unvaccinated.
But staff shortages are causing some to worry that France’s hospitals could face even more strain. Speaking at a protest outside the Health Ministry yesterday, Christophe Prudhomme, an emergency room doctor and CGT union member, said: “We are raising the alarm … if you insist on implementing this measure your beds will be closed, thus reducing chances (of survival) for a number of patients.”
Scots urged to “think twice” before calling ambulance as NHS facing “extremely challenging winter”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf urged Scots to only call an ambulance if it is “absolutely critical,” in a bid to ease pressure on the NHS over autumn and winter.
He stressed that those in critical situations should “of course make that call and the ambulance service will get to you as quickly as they possibly can”.
Hospitalisations for coronavirus have risen in Scotland, now totalling more than 1,000 for the first time since December 2020.
Wait times for an ambulance is around six hours on average and record numbers of patients are spending more than four hours in A&E.
The number of people in A&E now is 40 per cent higher than the last time Scotland saw 1,000 coronavirus patients in hospital.
Mr Yousaf told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I can’t get away from the fact that we are in an extremely challenging winter and that is why we’re investing as much as we possibly can.”
He also pledged financial support for the NHS.
“Whatever money I can find, additional resources I can find to help the NHS, I can promise you that will all be spent to tackle what will be a challenging autumn and winter,” he said.
The Scottish government has already outlined a £1 billion NHS recovery plan, with an “extra £20 million injection” for the ambulance service to help recruitment.
China vaccinates 91 per cent of students aged 12-17
The majority of students aged 12 to 17 in China have been fully vaccinated, state television has reported.
The figure of those vaccinated in the age group now stands at 91 per cent.
China’s two main vaccines have been approved for use in children from the age of three but, currently, only children aged 12 and over are eligible.
The total number of doses administered in China now sits at 2.157 billion, according to data from the National Health Commission published Wednesday.