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Sajid Javid issued a fresh appeal for people to get jabbed to cut the risk of Covid restrictions being reimposed, as a leading scientist said vaccines had taken the “sting out of the tail” of the disease.
He stressed that the wall of vaccine built up meant the country was going into the winter far better protected than a year ago.
But he urged more people to get vaccinated to bolster the nation’s defences. “We want to see even more people coming forward.
“Please go and do it, protect yourself and protect your loved ones,” he told Times Radio. Earlier, Professor Andrew Hayward, from University College London and a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, stressed Plan B, which could see working from home guidance again, compulsory mask wearing and vaccine passports, was needed in case “things spiral out of control”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If things are beginning to deteriorate rapidly, you are better acting earlier rather than leaving it really late...even though we have taken the sting out of the tail of this.
“We have moved away from a situation where there is the potential for hundreds of thousands of deaths, to a situation where we may still see tens of thousands of deaths.” In other developments:
Mr Javid denied Covid was to blame for just three in 10 of his staff being back in the Department of Health, insisting it was instead due to a shortage of desks.
Asked on LBC Radio by presenter Nick Ferrari what percentage of staff in the DHSC are currently behind their desk, he said: “It’s three in 10, roughly there …
“The reason is that we don’t have in my particular department enough desks for people.” He added that many more people had been hired to deal with the pandemic.
However, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “That answer does not add up. Civil servants, just like the rest of us, need to be back at work and spending time in the city.”
The Health Secretary signalled backing for schools if they face legal action over hosting clinics for children aged 12 to 15 to be vaccinated, insisting teachers would not have to answer questions about the jabs programme.
London is not seeing a surge in Covid cases, with 2,073 new cases announced yesterday, significantly lower than in earlier weeks. However, they could rise following the return of schools.
Pressed on LBC whether the capital needs extra support to boost its economy, former chancellor Mr Javid said: “London is a magnet already for businesses and as we have now come out of many of the Covid restrictions, as people are coming back from holiday and we are opening up our borders, I think we are going to see London continue to remain very strong.”
But many London MPs, including Conservatives, believe the city needs additional backing to recover.
Mr Javid defended not bringing in more stringent measures now, as set out in the Government’s winter plan for tackling the virus, saying vaccines, boosters and new treatments offer “a very strong” package of tools at present.
University modelling provided to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling operational sub-group shows that the range of hospital admissions per day in the next few months could range from a few hundred to around 8,000.