Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA
, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

Ministers are threatening to reimpose Covid restrictions under a potential ‘Plan C’ which would see mixing between households banned as well as mandatory facemasks, orders to work from home and vaccine passports if booster jabs don’t bring the virus under control by Christmas. 

At a gloomy Downing Street press conference reminiscent of the worst days of last year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that cases could reach 100,000 a day this winter and urged people to take precautions such as meeting outdoors, wearing masks and regular testing.

Insisting that ‘life is not back to normal’ and that ‘this pandemic is not over’, Mr Javid suggested there could be another national lockdown unless all people eligible for a third jab come forward, claiming the booster is there ‘not just to save lives, but to keep your freedoms too’. 

Though the Health Secretary claimed there was no need to implement ‘Plan B’ measures such as facemasks, WFH orders and domestic passports ‘at this point’, Cabinet Office officials are said to be discussing proposals which could form part of a potential ‘Plan C’. 

Such a plan would see restrictions on gatherings among different households if pressures on hospitals worsen, according to The Telegraph. One Whitehall source told the paper: ‘The focus is very much on measures that can be taken without a major economic impact, so keeping shops, pubs and restaurants open but looking at other ways to reduce the risks.’ 

Similar draconian measures were in place for much of last year, with people able to meet in hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants once they had reopened, but not visit each other’s homes. That system was swept aside as England entered a lockdown in January, with the ban on household mixing only removed in May. 

Most remaining Covid restrictions were subsequently axed on July 19, a day billed by Downing Street as a so-called ‘Freedom Day’. On Tuesday night, MPs agreed to extend emergency Covid powers for another six months without a vote.  

However, doctors instantly accused ministers of being ‘wilfully negligent’ after the Health Secretary ruled out immediately implementing the Government’s ‘Plan B’. 

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The Westminster Government said it would enact ‘Plan B’ to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed; as doctors working on the frontline, we can categorically say that time is now. By the Health Secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown. It is therefore incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS.’ 

NHS Confederation boss Matthew Taylor called on ministers to press ahead with its ‘Plan B’ or risk derailing efforts to tackle the enormous backlog of patients – currently at five million and likely to grow. He added: ‘The message from health leaders is clear – it is better to act now, rather than regret it later.’

Meanwhile, former chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport said the current restrictions are probably ‘not holding things’. 

He told BBC Newsnight: ‘Am I worried? Yes. It’s very, very delicately poised. We’ve got a lot of cases at the moment. Winter is coming, flu is probably coming. It’s not a good place to be. The evidence is that the current measures are probably not holding things.’

It comes as Tony Blair demanded that ministers set a target of delivering 500,000 Covid booster jabs a day amid fears a fresh wave of disease could overwhelm the NHS.  

Daily infections are currently on the brink of passing the 50,000 milestone for the first time in months, with Department of Health bosses on Wednesday recording 49,139 positive tests – up 15 per cent on the previous week. Meanwhile, hospital admissions rose by 15.3 per cent week-on-week to 869, while deaths jumped by nearly a third to 179.  

In other Covid developments:      

  • The booster backlog is likely to grow as more patients become eligible for their third jab, figures suggest;
  • Mr Javid announced the Government has bought hundreds of thousands of pills to treat Covid; 
  • It was revealed the UK’s top scientific advisors only met twice in the last three months;
  • Mr Kwarteng said holidays will not be cancelled again and dismissed the idea of another lockdown;
  • Figures showed there are nearly a third fewer mass vaccination hubs in operation now compared to when the original two-dose Covid vaccine programme was at the peak of its powers in April;
  • GPs ‘out-and-out rejected’ No10’s £250million proposals to give patients more face-to-face appointments; 
  • NHS chief Amanda Pritchard said complacency among older patients is to blame for slow booster rollout.
, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

Health Secretary Sajid Javid during a media briefing in Downing Street, London on October 19, 2021

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

Daily infections are currently on the brink of passing the 50,000 milestone for the first time in months, with Department of Health bosses on Wednesday recording 49,139 positive tests – up 15 per cent on the previous week

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

At a gloomy Downing Street press conference reminiscent of the worst days of last year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day this winter and urged people to take precautions such as meeting outdoors, wearing masks and regular testing. Pictured: commuters at London Bridge Station in July 2021

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus ‘Plan C’ that would BAN households from mixing ‘are being discussed’, The Today News USA

Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on October 18, 2021

At-home Covid pills that can HALVE risk of death to treat infected Brits from next month: Sajid Javid reveals No10 has bought ‘game-changing’ anti-viral made by pharmaceutical giant Merck and batch of experimental Pfizer drug 

Sajid Javid revealed the Government has bought hundreds of thousands of game-changing pills to treat Covid that infected Brits can take at home this winter.

Officials have bought 480,000 doses of molnupiravir, an antiviral made by US pharmaceutical company Merck and 250,000 courses of PF-073 from Pfizer, the drug giant behind the vaccine currently deployed for the UK’s booster drive.

Officials did not disclose how much the Department of Health paid but American health chiefs spent $1.2billion (£869million) on 1.7million molnupiravir pills this summer. If the drugs are priced the same in Britain they are likely to cost around £250million – even though they are thought to cost just £12 to make.

The drugs are pending approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which could come as early as mid-November. However, Pfizer’s pills aren’t expected to be available until January at the earliest.

A landmark study at the start of the month showed molnupiravir – taken twice a day – can cut the risk of infected people being hospitalised or dying by up to 50 per cent. It works by disrupting the virus’s ability to reproduce in the human body.

Pfizer’s treatment – a combination of an experimental antiviral and ritonavir, which is usually used to treat HIV – has yet to finish clinical trials. It works in a different way.

Antivirals are treatments used to either treat those who are infected with a virus or protect exposed individuals from becoming symptomatic. 

Mr Javid said the drugs are likely to be given to people who are infected or those who may have been exposed to the virus in a localised outbreak, for example at a care home. Officials have not yet specified who exactly will be offered the drugs.

 

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At the Covid press briefing, Mr Javid threatened to reimpose restrictions if people don’t get vaccinated and fail to make behavioural changes.  

‘Am I saying that if we don’t do our bit, get vaccinated, all those behavioural changes that we can make, that we are more likely to face restrictions as we head into winter…? Then I am saying that,’ the Health Secretary warned. ‘I think we’ve been really clear that we’ve all got a role to play.

‘If not enough people get their booster jabs, if not enough of those people that were eligible for the original offer, the five million I’ve talked about that remain unvaccinated, if they don’t come forward, if people don’t wear masks when they really should in a really crowded place with lots of people that they don’t normally hang out with, if they’re not washing their hands and stuff, it’s going to hit us all.

‘And it would of course make it more likely we’re going to have more restrictions.’  

Asked on Times Radio whether it was wise to pay money towards a party, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘Absolutely. I think I already have, we’ve got some arrangements in place and I look forward to having a Christmas party as usual.’

Asked if Mr Johnson agreed with the Business Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘We have said that we don’t want to be imposing diktats on people.’ 

Mr Kwarteng said this morning that he would ‘rule out’ another national lockdown being imposed.

The Business Secretary was asked on Sky News about some experts saying a further shutdown could not be discounted. 

He replied: ‘No, I would rule that out. Throughout this process, there’ve been people saying the lockdown was unnecessary, there have been other people saying we should continue the lockdown. We’ve really plotted a path between those two extremes.’  

At the first Covid press conference at Downing Street in a month, the Health Secretary said that ministers would not reintroduce face masks and WFH guidance ‘at this point’.

Mr Javid said that while the NHS was seeing ‘greater pressure’, he was confident the pressure was not ‘unsustainable’. He said ministers would ‘stay vigilant’ because cases could still rise to 100,000 a day this winter.

The decision by the Government to hold its nerve on restrictions will anger NHS leaders who claim hospitals are already buckling under the weight of Covid, flu and backlogs caused by the pandemic.

Mr Javid used the press conference to urge Britons to come forward for their booster jabs in a bid to speed up the sluggish vaccine campaign – which has only seen a quarter of care home residents revaccinated.

He said that the country was still ahead in the race against the virus thanks to the initial Covid vaccination effort, but claimed that waning immunity meant that lead was ‘narrowing’.

Pleading with the country to get their booster, Mr Javid added that not only would a booster save lives, it would also ‘protect our freedoms’. ‘Boosters could not be more important,’ he said.

Asked if people face a tightening of restrictions if they do not get boosters or take care indoors, Mr Javid said: ‘Am I saying that if we don’t do our bit, get vaccinated, all those behavioural changes that we can make, that we are more likely to face restrictions as we head into winter…? Then I am saying that.

‘I think we’ve been really clear that we’ve all got a role to play.

Booster backlog: Almost five million patients are still waiting for third Covid jab as fears grow that slow rollout will worsen 

The booster backlog is likely to grow as more patients become eligible for their third jab, figures suggest.

Around 4.8million who received their second dose at least six months ago are still waiting for their next one – leaving them with reduced immunity from Covid.

The NHS is giving around 1.3million boosters a week, while inviting another 2.2million patients to apply.

It means it could be the New Year until all 30million over-50s, health and social care staff and clinically vulnerable are fully-protected.

Experts warn hospitals risk being overburdened by coronavirus patients if uptake is not rapidly increased.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is 77 per cent effective at preventing infection one month after the second dose but this falls to 67 per cent after six months.

The Pfizer jab also falls over the same period from 88 per cent to 74 per cent.

 

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Daily infections are currently on the brink of passing the 50,000 milestone for the first time in months. Department of Health bosses today recorded 49,139 positive tests, up 15 per cent on the previous week.

Meanwhile, hospital admissions rose by 15.3 per cent week-on-week to 869, while deaths jumped by nearly a third to 179. Both measures lag behind case numbers by a few weeks, due to the time it takes for someone to become seriously unwell after catching the virus.

The Government yesterday said a further 223 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 – bringing the UK total to 138,852.

While the numbers are often higher on Tuesdays because of a lag in reporting deaths and cases over the weekend, that was the highest figure for daily reported deaths since March 9.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for cases is standing at 44,145 infections per day – the highest level for almost three months.

Mr Javid also announced the UK has bought hundreds of thousands of ‘game-changing’ pills that can be used to treat Britons with Covid at home this winter.

The UK has bought 480,000 antiviral molnupiravir pills made by US pharmaceutical company Merck and 250,000 PF-073 courses from Pfizer. They still need to be approved by the UK’s medical regulator before Britons can get their hands on the drugs. 

Experts fear the growing outbreak may have been exacerbated by an even more infectious offshoot of Delta called AY4.2. The proportion of cases made up by the sub-strain have doubled in a month, official figures show. 

In his first ever Downing Street press conference, Mr Javid said the UK was seeing ‘greater pressure’ on the NHS but the Government will ‘do what it takes to make sure that this pressure doesn’t become unsustainable, and that we don’t allow the NHS to become overwhelmed.’ 

Deaths ‘remain mercifully low’ at the moment, he said, but added: ‘We’ve always known that the winter months would pose the greatest threat to our road to recovery.’

He added: ‘Thanks to the vaccination programme, the link between hospitalisations and deaths has significantly weakened, but it’s not broken.

‘So we must all remember that this virus will be with us for the long term and remains a threat to our loved ones, and a threat to the progress that we’ve made in getting our nation closer to normal life.’

Mr Javid urged people to have their vaccines, including Covid boosters and jabs for flu, and said: ‘If we all play our part, then we can give ourselves the best possible chance in this race, get through this winter, and enjoy Christmas with our loved ones.’

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The above maps show the proportion of Covid cases that were the Delta sub-variant AY.4.2 in the fortnight to June 26 (left) and the fortnight to July 31 (right). Darker colours indicate that more cases of the sub-variant had been detected

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The above maps show the proportion of cases that were AY.4.2 in the fortnight to September 25 (left) and October 9 (right). The darker colours indicate that a higher proportion of infections were down to this sub-variant. 

Emergency Covid powers are extended for ANOTHER six months amid fears of winter surge as UK records highest daily death count since March

MPs agreed to extend emergency Covid powers for another six months without a vote yesterday. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that the Coronavirus Act – which includes powers of house-arrest, school and business closures, and restrictions on gatherings – were ‘still necessary and proportionate’ after 223 Covid deaths were recorded – the highest daily count since March.

Though lockdown-sceptic Conservative backbenchers called the legislation ‘dystopian’, the Labour Party refused to oppose the renewal of the law until March next year – meaning that the draconian regulations were renewed without a formal parliamentary vote. 

A review by the Government published last month outlined how seven of the remaining 27 temporary, non-devolved provisions in the Coronavirus Act would expire as part of the latest six-month review.

These included powers to prohibit or restrict events and gatherings as ‘most legal restrictions have been achieved under the Public Health Act, and so these powers have not been required’, according to the review.

But with 223 deaths recorded yesterday, the Government is facing calls to reintroduce mandatory facemasks and working from home orders. NHS bosses claim that the restrictions would prevent a ‘winter crisis’ of resurgent Covid as well as flu and other seasonal viruses.

Top scientists have repeatedly warned of a fourth wave this winter, prompted by the return of pupils to classrooms and office workers, as well as the colder weather and darker evenings driving people to socialise inside where the virus finds it easier to spread.

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Tonight was the first Covid press conference since September 14, highlighting the escalating fears about the winter crisis.  

Mr Javid told the Downing Street press conference the Government was concerned about the number of cases, but that vaccines were ‘clearly working’ when it came to hospital admissions and deaths.

Asked about unsustainable pressure on the health service, he said: ‘We don’t believe that the pressures that are currently faced by the NHS are unsustainable.

‘Don’t get me wrong, there are huge pressures especially in A&E, in primary care, for example, as well, but at this point we don’t believe they are unsustainable.

‘If we feel at any point it’s becoming unsustainable then the department, together with our friends in the NHS, we won’t hesitate to act.’

Mr Javid reiterated that the Government will not be implementing its Plan B strategy ‘at this point’.

He added: ‘We’ll be staying vigilant, preparing for all eventualities while strengthening our vital defences that can help us fight back against this virus.’

Praising deals for new two antiviral treatments that can cut the risk of death for the most vulnerable as ‘great news’, he said: ‘But we cannot be complacent when Covid-19 remains such a potent threat.’

The Health Secretary said England had reached a ‘milestone’ of four million top-up jabs on Wednesday, adding: ‘None of us want to go backwards now.

‘So we must all play our part in this national mission, and think about what we can do to make a difference. That means getting the jab when the time comes, whether it’s for Covid-19 or flu.’

He stressed that, aside from vaccinations, people can take other – now voluntary – measures such as meeting outdoors where possible, ensuring good ventilation, wearing masks in crowded spaces and taking lateral flow tests.

He said: ‘With winter soon upon us, these little steps make a big difference. And they’re more important now than they have ever been.’

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said the UK is going into winter with a ‘really high level’ of cases.

‘What we can see is that the cases now are almost as high as they were in July and actually not far off where they were last winter,’ she said.

‘What we are not seeing is that dip down again at the other side of the peak and that is really important because we are kicking off the winter at a really high level of cases.

‘Fortunately that is not currently working through into serious disease and deaths.’

However, she later said the last two days have seen the highest death rates for some time, adding that the number of deaths are ‘moving in the wrong direction’.

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

There have been suggestions that the variant may be elevated to ‘Variant under Investigation’. If this is the case the World Health Organization is likely to give it the name ‘Nu’, which is the next letter in the Greek alphabet

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The graph shows the proportion of cases sequenced in England that are the new subvariant AY.4.2 (yellow) and Delta (blue). Delta became dominant in the UK in May, overtaking the previously dominant Alpha strain (purple)

Only a QUARTER of care home residents have had their Covid booster vaccine 

Just over a quarter of care home residents have had a Covid booster vaccine, data shows amid fears that millions of elderly Britons will be left vulnerable to the virus this winter.

NHS England data shows that just 27.8 per cent of care home residents have received their crucial third dose and only 14.1 per cent of staff have been boosted.

That’s despite the booster rollout launching over a month ago and care home residents and their carers being highlighted as the top priority groups.

The data also shows that little over half of eligible people over the age of 80 in England have been given a booster, while just a third of 75 to 79-year-olds have been revaccinated.  

Pressure is mounting on the Government to get the sluggish programme up to speed as daily infections approach peak-second-wave levels and the NHS gears up for a harsh winter.  

Members of No10’s own scientists have publicly called for ministers to hurry up with the programme, which prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to admit today it was ‘something that we really need to address’. 

NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard yesterday claiming the elderly are not coming forward quickly enough for their boosters. 

But sources close to the booster drive told MailOnline capacity is also an issue, with figures showing there are nearly a third fewer mass vaccination hubs in operation now compared to April, when more than 400,000 extra jabs a day were being dished out. 

An NHS practice manager said GPs are prioritising clearing the record-breaking backlog of 5.7million patients waiting for routine treatment in the UK over dishing out jabs.

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Daily Covid figures released today show England recorded 41,498 new infections, 2,768 cases were confirmed in Scotland, while 3,450 were spotted in Wales and 1,423 in Northern Ireland.

An average of 45,800 daily infections have been recorded every day in the last week.  

And week-on-week infection rates were rising in every age group in England, apart from 80 to 84-yea-olds, on October 15 – the latest date the figures are available for. 

Some 8.5million positive tests have been registered across the UK since the pandemic began. But the real infection number is many millions higher, due to the limited testing capacity at the start of the crisis and not everyone who catches the virus coming forward for a test.

Meanwhile, hospitalisations within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have increased week-on-week for the tenth day in a row.

Some 850 patients have been Covid hospitalised per day in the last seven days on average – the highest figure in a month, but a fraction of the more than 4,000 recorded at the peak of the second wave in January.

And a further 179 coronavirus deaths were recorded, after a six-month high of 223 was recorded yesterday.

The increase in cases has been in part blamed on the new variant, which academics estimate may be up to 15 per cent more transmissible than the original Delta, which rapidly became dominant in Britain in the spring before taking off worldwide.

It has been detected in almost every part of the country, figures show, and it’s thought to be behind almost 60 per cent of positive tests sampled sequenced in Adur, West Sussex.

No10 yesterday said it was ‘keeping a very close eye’ on AY.4.2 but insisted there is ‘no evidence’ that it spreads easier. Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson also warned the Government ‘won’t hesitate to take action if necessary’.

Experts suggested the uptick of AY.4.2 – one of 45 sub-lineages of Delta – may be partly to blame, along with the return of pupils to classrooms from August and workers to offices.  

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, told the Financial Times the strain could be the most infectious subvariant seen since the pandemic began.

But he noted Britain is the only country where the sub-lineage has ‘taken off’, so its quick growth could be a ‘chance demographic event’.

The World Health Organization will likely elevate AY.4.2 to a ‘variant under investigation’, which means it would be given a name under its Greek letter naming system, Professor Balloux added.  

Earlier, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation – an organisation that represents NHS trusts – warned the health service is preparing for ‘the most challenging winter on record’ and risks ‘stumbling into a crisis’ without urgent action to stem the growing outbreak. 

He said the ‘consequence of not acting now’ would be the NHS struggling to tackle the record-breaking backlog of 5.7million patients waiting for routine surgery. Hospital bosses already fear the waiting list will not be cleared for at least five years.

Mr Taylor told the Guardian: ‘We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months. 

‘The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to Plan B, but it should be Plan B plus. We should do what’s in Plan B in terms of masks [and] working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.’

In a second interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Taylor said the NHS was facing a ‘perfect storm’.  

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The map shows the proportion of cases caused by AY.4.2 in the fortnight to October 9, with darker colours equating to more infections caused by the subvariant. Data from the Sanger Institute shows 8.9 per cent of all Covid-positive nose and throat swabs sequenced in England were caused by AY.4.2. It statistics suggests the sub-lineage is most prevalent in Adur, where 61 per cent of all positive samples sequenced were linked with AY.4.2. The subvariant also seems to be highly prevalent in East Lindsey (46 per cent) and Torridge (41 per cent)

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The prevalence of the Delta strain, which was first detected in the UK in March and became dominant within two months, grew much faster than AY.4.2 has grown so far. Delta is still responsible for nine in 10 infections in England

Government’s SAGE scientists have met just TWICE over the last three months 

The UK’s top scientific advisors have only met twice in the last three months, it was revealed today amid fears a fourth Covid wave is just around the corner. 

SAGE, which has guided the Government through the Covid pandemic, last met on  October 15. 

The October meeting was the second in as many months, with the influential panel last coming together before that on September 9.

The group – which includes England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty, Government chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, among others, didn’t meet in August at all. 

Labour today claimed it ‘beggars belief’ as to why Sage was ‘effectively stood down’, with cases having soared to a three-month high of around 45,000. 

There were 223 recorded deaths from the virus in the UK yesterday, the highest total since March, a month in which Sage met three times alone.

It is understood that both Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick have raised alarm about the figures in recent days and that internal discussions in Government have turned to possibly reimposing some of the milder lockdown measures this winter.

Though Downing Street is reportedly resistant to this.  

There are also concerns about the rise of a new Delta variant of the virus in the UK. The variant called AY.4.2, could be up to 10 to 15 per cent more infectious than its ancestor. 

This, combined with a slow rollout of the Covid booster programme, with nearly 5million vulnerable adults yet to receive theirs, indicates there may be some dire weeks to come in Britain’s fight against Covid. 

SAGE meetings have diminished in frequency since February, when the second wave was just starting to fizzle out. Since then the group has mostly met thrice or twice a month but August this year was the first time the group did not meet at all since the pandemic began.

In comparison, SAGE met four times in August 2020, six times in September 2020, and five times in October last year as the country headed into the colder months and the onset of the second wave of the virus. 

It contains some of the UK’s leading epidemiologists, virologists and other health experts, with meetings also regularly attended by government officials.

At meetings they analyse the latest trends of how Covid has been spreading in the UK, and the latest research into the virus and how it can be contained and treated.

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‘I think the Government needs to look at all those measures which science tells us can reduce the spread of the virus and further down the line the number of people going into hospital and dying,’ he said. 

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

‘The winter is always tight for the NHS for a number of reasons. You add in Covid patients, then you add in pent up demand of people on waiting lists and those who haven’t gone to the doctor and are now presenting with quite challenging symptoms. 

‘I speak to health service leaders every day and I have literally not spoken to any leader who doesn’t say their service is under intense pressure now. We are in October and it is only going to get worse.’ 

He added: ‘The risk of the NHS being overwhelmed is there. At the moment the system is working flat out and those winter pressures are going to grow.

‘One of the consequences of not taking action is it will be very difficult to make any progress at all for those people who have been waiting a very long time for treatment.’  

He said: ‘The emergence of yet another more transmissible strain would be suboptimal. 

‘Though, this is not a situation comparable to the emergence of Alpha and Delta that were far more transmissible – 50 per cent or more – than any strain in circulation at the time. 

‘Here we are dealing with a potential small increase in transmissibility that would not have a comparable impact on the pandemic.’

The UK Health Security Agency, which took over from the now-defunct PHE, revealed in a report on Friday that the subvariant is expanding in England. 

It includes two mutations – called Y145H and A222V – and is being monitored, the UKHSA said.

Both of these spike mutations have been found in other virus lineages since the pandemic began – but are not present on any current variant of concern. 

Professor Balloux said the mutations are not obviously linked with increased transmissibility or evading protection granted by vaccines.

Only three AY.4.2 cases have been spotted in the US, while two per cent of cases in Denmark are caused by the sub-lineage, he added.

Data from the Sanger Institute suggests the sub-lineage is most prevalent in Adur, where 61 per cent of all positive samples sequenced were linked with AY.4.2.

The subvariant also seems to be highly prevalent in East Lindsey (46 per cent) and Torridge (41 per cent).

It comes as the UK recorded 49,156 new Covid infections yesterday, marking another three-month high. Hospitalisations and deaths are also on the rise. 

Some experts have said the subvariant may be behind the surge, which other European countries are not seeing to the same extent.

Former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted on Sunday: ‘We need urgent research to figure out if this ‘delta plus’ is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion.’

But Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid Genomics Initiative at the Sanger Institute, told the Financial Times AY.4.2 alone does not explain the the UK’s caseload, which is instead linked to the UK imposing less restrictions than other countries. 

Professor Balloux said its rapid spread ‘could have caused a small number of additional cases’, but added: ‘It hasn’t been driving the recent increase in case numbers in the UK.’

Official figures have shown cases are also being fuelled by youngsters returning to classrooms last month, with as many as one in 12 being infected.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government is ‘keeping a very close eye on’ the subvariant. 

They said: ‘There’s no evidence to suggest that this variant … the AY.4.2 one … is more easily spread. There’s no evidence for that but as you would expect we’re monitoring it closely and won’t hesitate to take action if necessary.’

Dr Alexander Edwards, an immunologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline it would be concerning if a variant starts to dominant that evades vaccine immunity.

He said: ‘Before the successful rollout of vaccines, this was less likely to happen, but now, with such a high proportion of the population infected, alongside waning immunity, now is the time to be extra vigilant. 

‘Luckily, we can redesign our vaccines very quickly now, so there isn’t yet anything to be afraid of. 

‘But any efforts made now to reduce cases and improve immunity – through boosters, vaccinating younger people, testing and effective isolating – could pay off if they cut the risk of vaccine evading variants.’ 

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told MailOnline the detection of AY.4.2 ‘highlights the need for continued genomic surveillance of the virus’. 

Experts will need to monitor it to determine ‘if it really is more transmissible and if it has any impact of the efficacy of vaccination’, he said.

Professor Young added: ‘The continued spread of the virus at a high level in the UK increases the risk of variants being generated that could be more infectiousness and more able to evade vaccine-induced immunity.’

Booster backlog: Almost five million patients are still waiting for third Covid jab as fears grow that slow rollout will worsen

The booster backlog is likely to grow as more patients become eligible for their third jab, figures suggest.

Around 4.8million who received their second dose at least six months ago are still waiting for their next one – leaving them with reduced immunity from Covid.

The NHS is giving around 1.3million boosters a week, while inviting another 2.2million patients to apply.

It means it could be the New Year until all 30million over-50s, health and social care staff and clinically vulnerable are fully-protected.

Experts warn hospitals risk being overburdened by coronavirus patients if uptake is not rapidly increased. 

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

Around 4.8million who received their second dose at least six months ago are still waiting for their third vaccination. Pictured: An NHS worker receives her third dose at Croydon University Hospital

The AstraZeneca vaccine is 77 per cent effective at preventing infection one month after the second dose but this falls to 67 per cent after six months.

The Pfizer jab also falls over the same period from 88 per cent to 74 per cent.

Earlier this week, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said there is ‘plenty of capacity’ for people to get their boosters, and cited complacency as a key factor. She claimed that ‘the crux’ of the problem is that people ‘are not coming forward as quickly when they receive their invitation as we certainly saw for the first jabs’.

But patients say they are struggling to get them after GP surgeries that administered first and second doses pulled out of the programme to focus on routine care.

It means some have been told to travel miles from home to a mass vaccine centre.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, yesterday admitted the issue was not about supply but ‘how one can access it in, in a way that’s convenient to patients’.

He told the Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘The original vaccination programme – the first two vaccines that people received – 75 per cent of those were delivered from general practice and most of the rest were delivered by mass vaccination centres.

‘For this booster programme there has been a shift, so more of the vaccinations are going to be delivered by the mass vaccination centres. 

‘I think it is the case that people at a local level are finding it sometimes more difficult to access the booster.’ 

He said it is ‘concerning’ that people are being left with waning immunity and warned it could heap pressure on the NHS.

‘We know that the booster vaccination is exceptionally important in order to protect individual patients and indeed to protect the NHS during a winter that we expect to be really difficult.’

The Department of Health will relaunch its booster publicity campaign this weekend, encouraging people to get the jab when invited – a month after the rollout began.

But one Tory MP questioned whether vaccines minister Maggie Throup has the clout to make the rollout a success, like her predecessor Nadhim Zahawi had done.

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

Sajid Javid today insisted ministers would not reintroduce face masks and WFH guidance ‘at this point’ as he addressed the nation 

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The MP said there was ‘the issue of does the machinery of delivery require constant ministerial kicking to get it working… I’m not sure Maggie may be as inclined to do the kicking.’

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, said the Government needs to ‘get a grip’ to stop the backlog growing.

He said: ‘I think ministers have lost their grip of the vaccination programme and perhaps become hubristic. They’ve boasted that this is our wall of defence – well I’m afraid the wall is beginning to crumble. 

‘Unless we fix this, we’re going to see more infection rates, and in turn more pressure on the National Health Service.’

Dame Kate Bingham, credited with securing the jabs that made the programme a success, stressed it is vital that boosters get into arms. She said: ‘Older and vulnerable people should be banging on the doors to get their boosters.’

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘With winter looming into view, we hope that it will be possible to accelerate the booster programme, so that older people can be confident that their immunity is as good as it can be before the cold weather seriously sets in.’

Slow third dose rollout puts care homes at risk

Progress on offering Covid booster jabs to all care homes by November 1 is falling woefully short.

Fewer than a third of residents (27.8 per cent) and only 14.1 per cent of staff have so far had their third dose.

The slow rollout has raised fears that the virus could rampage through homes now immunity has waned, causing a devastating spike in deaths.

Low levels of protection could also force managers to reimpose tough visiting restrictions, separating residents from their loved ones.

Many GPs who helped deliver first and second doses of the vaccine have withdrawn from the programme to focus on routine care. Care home groups said there had been confusion about which brand of Covid jab to give and delays getting consent from residents in some areas.

Some staff say they are reluctant to get their third shot after suffering side-effects from previous jabs and say they have concerns about being vaccinated against Covid at the same time as flu.

More than 40,000 care home residents in England and Wales died after testing positive for coronavirus in the first and second waves.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘It’s extremely important that everyone living or working in a care home gets their Covid booster jab as soon as it’s due. 

‘This will not only help to prevent a recurrence of the toll of death and serious illness we saw earlier in the pandemic, it will also give care home managers the confidence to keep visiting going.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘GP teams and care home managers should be working closely to vaccinate residents who are eligible for a booster.’

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Government’s SAGE scientists have met just TWICE over the last three months

The UK’s top scientific advisors have only met twice in the last three months, it was revealed today amid fears a fourth Covid wave is just around the corner. 

SAGE, which has guided the Government through the Covid pandemic, last met on  October 14. 

The October meeting was the second in as many months, with the influential panel last coming together before that on September 9.

The group – which includes England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty,  Government chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, among others – didn’t meet in August at all. 

Labour today claimed it ‘beggars belief’ as to why Sage was ‘effectively stood down’, with cases having soared to a three-month high of around 45,000. 

There were 223 recorded deaths from the virus in the UK yesterday, the highest total since March, a month in which Sage met three times alone.

It is understood both Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick have raised the alarm about the figures in recent days, and internal Whitehall discussions have turned to reimposing some of the milder lockdown measures this winter. 

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

The frequency of Sage meetings has declined since February, when the group of scientific advisors met once a week, to generally twice a month from April to July, one a month in September and October, skipping the month of August entirely  

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

, Coronavirus &#8216;Plan C&#8217; that would BAN households from mixing &#8216;are being discussed&#8217;, The Today News USA

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty (left) and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (middle) are two of the highest profile members of Sage which provides prime minister Boris Johnson (right) scientific advice on how best to handle the Covid pandemic. The group has only met twice in the last three months as cases and deaths from the virus begin to rise to levels not seen since the second wave 

How often has Sage met since last July? 

2021

October: One meeting on the 14th

September: One meeting on the 9th

August: 0 meetings 

July: Two meetings, on the 7th and 22nd

June: Two meetings, on the 9th and 3rd 

May: Three meetings, on the 5th, 13th, and 27th

April: Two meetings, on the 8th and 22nd

March: Three meetings, on the 11th, 25th and 31st

February: Four meetings, on the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th

January: Four meetings, one the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th

2020

December: Four meetings, on the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 22nd

November: Six meetings, on the 4th, 5th, 12th, 16th, 19th and 26th

October: Five meetings, on the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th

September: Six meetings, on the 1st, 3rd, 10th, 17th, 21st, 24th

August: Four meetings, on the 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

July: Five meetings, on the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th

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There are also concerns about the rise of a new Delta variant of the virus in the UK. The variant called AY.4.2, could be up to 10 to 15 per cent more infectious than its ancestor. 

This, combined with a slow rollout of the Covid booster programme, with nearly 5million vulnerable adults yet to receive theirs, indicates there may be some dire weeks to come in Britain’s fight against Covid. 

SAGE meetings have diminished in frequency since February, when the second wave was just starting to fizzle out. Since then the group has mostly met thrice or twice a month but August this year was the first time the group did not meet at all since the pandemic began.

In comparison, SAGE met four times in August 2020, six times in September 2020, and five times in October last year as the country headed into the colder months and the onset of the second wave of the virus. 

It contains some of the UK’s leading epidemiologists, virologists and other health experts, with meetings also regularly attended by government officials.

At meetings they analyse the latest trends of how Covid has been spreading in the UK, and the latest research into the virus and how it can be contained and treated. 

MailOnline contacted SAGE for comment on the infrequency of meetings in the last few months. 

Whitehall sources told the i that the ‘meeting rhythm’ of Sage was determined by a combination of ‘government demand for scientific advice on particular issues’ and of the ’emergence of new evidence’.

This rhythm has changed ‘continually’ during the pandemic, the source said, but there was now a ‘reducing tempo given the lessened demand for science advice as our understanding of key science questions improves, the epidemic evolves and capabilities within government increases’.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the apparent standing down of Sage ‘beggared belief’ considering the Covid situation gripping the UK. 

‘This week we have seen infections at around 50,000 a day, warnings of waning vaccination and a faltering jabs programme which when combined with fear over flu should be taken as flashing warning lights for ministers,’ he said.

‘Learning to live with the virus is not the same as pretending the virus doesn’t exist. To hear that Sage has effectively been stood down beggars belief.’

A Government spokesperson said they continued to take up-to-date advice on the science surround the pandemic. 

NHS boss says health service was NEVER overwhelmed in fight against Covid 

The head of the NHS today said the health service was never overwhelmed by Covid during the height of the pandemic.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, told MPs expanding critical care, introducing new treatments and rolling out the vaccine prevented wards from being overrun over the last year-and-a-half.

However, medics who worked on the frontlines during the first and second waves of immediately slammed their boss, accusing her of ‘gaslighting’.

Mrs Pritchard also warned the NHS is on course for a ‘tough winter’ and that a rise in Covid-infected patients would have a knock-on effect on how much other, planned care could be carried out. 

She suggested pressures on the health service could see thousands more hospital treatments cancelled. More than 1.5million NHS ops were cancelled or delayed due to the chaos of the pandemic.

Her comments were echoed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who told MPs there is ‘huge pressure’ on the health service in England. 

Mr Javid admitted there are ‘shortages’ of 999 call handlers after ex Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised the issue in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, paramedics also warned six-hour waits for ambulances could become ‘commonplace’ this winter.

The College of Paramedics claimed ambulances have been forced to wait outside of hospitals because of packed A&E wards, and warned that the problems will only get larger as winter demand picks up. 

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‘The government continues to regularly receive scientific and technical advice from a wide range of sources, they said.

‘This includes from the newly established UKHSA, the JCVI and the Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer as well as SAGE and its subgroups.’

The spokesperson also defended the sporadic Sage meetings, stating it continued to meet as needed. 

‘SAGE continues to meet as needed and the regularity of SAGE meetings is determined by the Chief Scientific Adviser in consultation with scientific colleagues,’ they said. 

‘The vaccination programme has weakened the link between cases, deaths and hospitalisations, and we are continuing to monitor the scientific evidence and data very closely over the coming months.’

Yesterday, No10 said a further 223 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid — bringing the UK’s total death tally to 138,852.

While the numbers are often higher on Tuesdays because of a lag in reporting deaths and cases over the weekend, this is the highest figure for daily reported deaths since March 9.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for cases is standing at around 44,145 per day — the highest level for almost three months.

SAGE has been slammed in recent weeks, with a damning probe into No10’s handling of the Covid pandemic earlier this month finding it failed to challenge the panel’s ‘groupthink’, leading to the virus ripping through Britain. 

In a devastating verdict, the report insisted the deadly delay in imposing the first national lockdown was ‘because of the official scientific advice the Government received, not in spite of it’. 

It added that an ‘over-reliance on specific mathematical models’ – many of which were later proved to be wildly inaccurate – was a key factor in the UK’s disastrous response to Covid.

In the early days of the pandemic Boris Johnson consistently stuck to the mantra that his Government was ‘following the science’.

The rise in Covid deaths and cases have prompted some to call for the Government to enforce a a ‘Plan B’, which would bring back mandatory face masks and more working from home in order to avoid a ‘winter crisis’.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents NHS trusts, urged the Government to implement the back-up strategy amid rising Covid cases.    

Mr Taylor said the NHS is preparing for what could be ‘the most challenging winter on record’ and risks ‘stumbling into a crisis’ after a continued rise on coronavirus cases over the past week amid fears the booster jab rollout is going too slowly.

He also said that the UK should replicate the ‘national mobilisation’ that the UK ‘achieved in the first and second waves’. 

Mr Taylor suggested Britain would be unable to tackled the record-breaking NHS backlog of 5.7million patients waiting for routine surgery without implementing the alternative winter Covid plan. Hospital bosses have already warned the waiting list will not be cleared for at least five years.

But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the Government does not ‘feel that it’s the time for Plan B right now’, echoing No10’s official stance yesterday.

Mr Kwarteng said he would continue to urge people to wear face masks in public and conceded the slow uptake of coronavirus booster jabs is ‘something that we really need to address’.

However, Politico reported Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick have raised the alarm about rising Covid numbers in recent days with internal discussions turning to the possibility of reimposing some of the milder measures lockdown this winter.  

Sage ‘groupthink’: Report blasts ministers for failing to lockdown sooner

Ministers failed to challenge flawed advice from Government scientists which allowed Covid to rip through Britain, the damning inquiry concluded.

Today’s report said the UK’s failure to lock down early enough stemmed from ‘false groupthink’ among members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

In a devastating verdict, the report insisted the deadly delay in imposing the first national lockdown was ‘because of the official scientific advice the Government received, not in spite of it’.

It added that an ‘over-reliance on specific mathematical models’ – many of which were later proved to be wildly inaccurate – was a key factor in the UK’s disastrous response to Covid.

In the early days of the pandemic Boris Johnson consistently stuck to the mantra that his Government was ‘following the science’.

 However, the inquiry suggests much of this early advice from Sage was wrong – but ministers ‘felt it was difficult to challenge the views of their official scientific advisers’.

On March 12, 2020, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told a Government news conference it was not possible or desirable to stop everyone being infected. 

And at a Sage meeting the next day – ten days before lockdown – members were ‘unanimous that measures seeking to completely suppress spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak’.

The report said: ‘Modelling at the time suggested that to suppress the spread of Covid-19 too firmly would cause a resurgence when restrictions were lifted.’

 It criticised a ‘degree of groupthink’ which meant that ‘during this period Government policy did not deviate from the scientific advice it received in any material respect’.

The report said that in the days leading up to the first lockdown ministers and advisers ‘experienced simultaneous epiphanies that the course the UK was following was wrong, possibly catastrophically so.’

Sage only recommended a full lockdown when a study led by Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said an unmitigated epidemic could result in 510,000 UK deaths.

MPs said it was ‘astonishing’ this had taken so long when most other nations had already imposed stay-at-home orders.

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