When it comes to Covid-19, It might feel like we’re in a much better place this year than last, given the majority of the UK is vaccinated against the virus.
However, that doesn’t mean Christmas is a sure-fire win. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Sajid Javid said the festive celebrations with family could go ahead – “if people play their part.”
The health secretary said the pandemic was “not over”, citing the possibility that Covid cases could go as high as 100,000 a day, and warned restrictions could be reimposed amid concerns about a winter surge in the spread of the virus.
In a toughening of the language from government, Javid urged the public to meet outdoors where possible, wear face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces and take frequent rapid tests.
“With winter ahead, we cannot blow it now,” he said. “Although vaccinations are our primacy form of defence, there are many more things we can all do to help contain the spread of this virus, like meeting outdoors where it is possible.”
He added: “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.”
Javid warned that if people do not wear masks where they “really should” such as a “really crowded place with lots of people they don’t normally hang out with” then it was “likely we are going to have more restrictions”.
According to another health minister, the pressure on the NHS is “sustainable” but winter restrictions aren’t totally ruled out.
Eward Argar told the BBC that there was “huge pressure” on the NHS but there were no plans to introduce new Covid regulations.
However, the minister did not rule out a government ‘Plan C’ which could see the banning of households mixing in the lead up to Christmas.
Argar said the government’s plan A to get people vaccinated is still working but said more people need to get jabbed to secure a win to the finish line.
He told BBC Radio 4: “It’s a race… between the vaccines, and getting those in people’s arms, and the virus. We’re still winning that race at the moment, but it’s narrowing, that lead is narrowing. So what we need to do is that sprint for the line.”
The government’s Plan B could include legally mandating face coverings in some settings, introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid-status certification and asking people to work from home.
It came as the government announced deals have been agreed for two new treatments which could be used for some of those most vulnerable to the effects of Covid.
Thousands of courses of the antivirals have been secured to be ready for use this winter, subject to approval by the UK medicines regulator.
The treatments, from pharmaceutical companies Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), and Pfizer, would be aimed at those most at risk from the virus, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.