Sajid Javid has said it is not necessary to implement Plan B of England’s winter Covid-19 precautions “at this point”.
The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast “we’ll have a normal Christmas” this year as he urged people to come forward and get their vaccines.
His comments come amid mounting concern over rising Covid cases across the UK, and more calls from health leaders to introduce the measures.
Plan B measures include the reintroduction of some social distancing measures, compulsory face masks in some settings, asking people to work from home, and introducing vaccine passports.
Labour yesterday confirmed it was calling for Plan B, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves saying ministers must listen to scientific advisers asking for tougher curbs.
Mr Javid said a final decision on making vaccination mandatory for all NHS staff had not been taken yet “but it is something that I’m heading towards”.
He said whether the Government has “Plan A or Plan B has got nothing to do with Cop26”, after suggestions the Government was holding off bringing in restrictions due to the climate conference in Glasgow.
On the question of Plan B measures, Mr Javid said: “It’s got everything to do with getting the very best clinical advice from our world-leading scientists.
“At the moment… we don’t think the data shows that we need to move to Plan B but that said, it’s really important that we all keep playing our part and that means getting vaccinated, especially if you’re eligible for the booster jab please come forward, and also just being cautious on a daily basis and following the advice.”
Asked about the festive season, Mr Javid said: “This virus, we’ve seen already, what we know about it is it is unpredictable and I don’t think any sensible health secretary across the world would want to predict exactly where we’re going to be in three months’ time, or six months’ time, not least because there’s always the risk sadly of a new variant that could be more dangerous.”
But he said the best thing to do is get vaccinated and take daily precautions.
“For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas – which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas – if we want let’s just keep playing our part,” Mr Javid said.
He said he “of course” agrees with Boris Johnson that it will be a better Christmas than last year.
Asked about mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff, he said it was something he was “heading towards”, adding: ““We’ve been very clear and open about this, working with our friends in the NHS, and the reason for this is if you’re working in the NHS, that fantastic work you’re doing every day, you yourself are more susceptible to this virus because you’re just much more likely to come into contact with it, but also the people that you’re looking after are more vulnerable and that’s why they’re in hospital, they’ve got health needs, and this is about protecting them and protecting yourself.”
The situation with rising case numbers has led to a senior health chief urging people to get their Covid-19 booster jab as the NHS sends out a further two million invites this week.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said infection rates are rising and warned that the vaccination programme will not be enough to bring current infection rates under control.
He said people need to be testing themselves, wearing masks and avoiding crowds in enclosed spaces in order to prevent “a real meltdown”.
NHS England said more than five million people have already been given the additional jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that modelling seen by the Government predicts that there will be a rapid fall in infections within weeks without bringing in Plan B.
Prof Powis said: “Winter is coming and infection rates are rising and so it’s now really important that everyone receiving their invite for a booster vaccine from the NHS this week books in at one of the convenient vaccinations sites around the country offering this crucial, additional protection.
“Thanks to NHS staff, nine in 10 people have had a first dose, saving tens of thousands of lives, and now more than five million boosters have been delivered in the first month of the rollout.
“I would urge anyone receiving an invite this week to book in as soon as possible, the booster dose is proven to significantly increase protection against Covid and will provide vital protection this winter.”
This article was originally published on our sister title, NationalWorld