Britain’s Covid crisis has PEAKED with cases falling ‘quickly’ and idea of No10 having to impose another winter lockdown is a ‘long way away’, top scientists claim
- Covid cases in the UK fell to 30,000 yesterday, down from 38,000 last week, in a sign we are past the peak
- Scientist says that deaths and hospitalisations from the virus will drop soon, as a consequence of cases falling
- Other expert says data shows UK will not need a winter lockdown this year, providing enough people get jabs
- Both scientists say the booster jabs are key to keeping virus contained, but there is chaos in booking system
Britain’s third wave of Covid has already peaked and hospitalisations and deaths should also soon fall, scientists insisted today.
In the latest sign the country may be past the worst of the pandemic, cases in the UK dropped by a fifth to 30,305 yesterday — down from 38,009 the week prior.
One of the Government’s pandemic advisers claimed No10 was a ‘long way away’ from having to consider a winter lockdown based on the current promising data, despite Boris Johnson facing calls to act tougher and resort to his Plan B strategy of face masks and WFH guidance.
However, experts have warned the success of the ongoing Covid vaccine booster programme was vital to how the country fares in the coming months.
Professor Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said Covid could one day ‘fade into the background’ similar to colds and the flu in the future from the booster drive, which experts have hinted will become an annual programme.
Booster vaccines could be given out EVERY winter, SAGE adviser reveals
Booster Covid vaccines may be needed every winter to keep the lid on the virus, a SAGE adviser said today — as the current drive descends into chaos.
Dr Mike Tildesley, who is an infectious diseases modeller for No10’s top scientists, warned that Covid, like flu, would likely keep circulating for years to come.
He said this would mean people’s immunity must be topped up regularly to slash the risk of an infection boiling over into serious disease and death.
Former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi also suggested today that the Government was considering rolling out boosters annually.
But the current booster roll out has already fallen into disarray with millions left struggling to get appointments.
Some four in ten eligible Britons are still yet to receive their third doses, with ministers blaming the low uptake on people failing to come forward.
But in reality eligible patients are struggling to book appointments, being told they must wait until December, and asked to drive tens of miles to get the jab.
Ministers have tried to speed the roll out today by opening up appointments a month early, although patients will still have to wait until six months after their second dose to get the jab. There was a queue of five minutes to book for the top up today.
Some 300,000 boosters are being rolled out every day on average, although there are calls for the pace to be quickened to 500,000.
In other Covid developments today:
- A NHS care worker posted an emotional video after she lost her job for refusing to get the Covid vaccine;
- Up to 10million vulnerable Britons will not get their Covid booster by Christmas due to the slow rollout in the UK;
- Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock says NHS staff should be forced to have the jab this winter not April;
- Brits who bought hot tubs and pizza ovens in lockdown regret their pandemic purchases, new research shows.
Professor Naismith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In terms of cases we certainly appear now to be going down quite quickly and that’s certainly what we would hope.
‘The number of hospital admissions is still high, over a 1,000 a day, and the number of deaths is tragically still quite high with just over a 1,000 a week.’
But he added: ‘Of course, as cases fall we would expect the other two things to fall in time.’
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group advising ministers on the virus — an influential sub-committee of SAGE, also struck a positive tone.
While stating the UK was ‘not out of the woods yet’ when it came to Covid, he added the country was a long way from facing the prospect of another winter lockdown.
He told Sky News: ‘I think we’re a long way away from thinking in those terms.
‘I think that clearly there is a situation that if the NHS is under severe pressure, if the number of deaths sadly starts to increase, then of course, obviously, there may be discussions around whether more restrictions need to come in.’
Leading experts have attributed Britain’s falling Covid cases to a rise in immunity trigged by a combination of the booster vaccine campaign, and the back-to-school wave of infection which triggered the latest wave.
Dr Tildesley added the prospect of a winter lockdown is dependent of how effective the rollout of the Covid vaccine booster programme is, and urged all eligible persons to get their jabs.
‘I would hope that, with a very successful vaccination campaign, the idea of a winter lockdown is a long way away,’ he said.
‘But it is certainly true that if we don’t get good immunity across the population, there may need to be perhaps further measures taken. So it’s really important that we encourage people to come forward when eligible to take those booster jabs.’
Professor Naismith also highlighted the importance of Covid booster jabs, adding he was eagerly awaiting getting his own. ‘I’m certainly looking forward to taking mine the first day I can,’ he said.
NHS workers should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter, disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today.
Mr Hancock — who quit in June after breaching his own social distancing rules by kissing a married colleague — said the move would act as another ‘tool to save lives’ during what is projected to be a harsh winter for the health service.
He also scorned NHS staff who are still not vaccinated and don’t have a valid medical reason, warning that it was their ‘moral duty’ and that they had ‘ignored all the scientific and clinical advice’.
Ministers have for weeks been considering whether to make Covid jabs compulsory within the health service after pushing through the requirement for care home workers in the summer.
But last week the Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to push back the plans until April after being warned by NHS bosses that introducing the policy now could leave hospitals understaffed at a crucial period.
There are also concerns about whether the move is even necessary, given that more than nine in 10 NHS staff are already vaccinated.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock, who was Health Secretary for three years, warned ministers against delaying compulsory vaccinations for the sector into the new year.
He said: ‘Having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS — and get it in place as fast as possible… So as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives.
‘Imagine the cancer patient, already battling another deadly disease, being cared for by a nurse. Who can put their hand on their heart and say they’d be happy to tell that patient their nurse could have the vaccine, but has chosen against all scientific and clinical advice to ignore it.’ Mr Hancock said doctors and nurses had a ‘moral duty’ to get the Covid vaccine to protect their patients.
‘The boosters restore immunity to well above 95 per cent effectiveness for serious disease so as soon as you can get that booster take it.’
Britain’s booster campaign has been chaotic and slow compared to the initial rollout of the Covid vaccines.
The Government is currently on track to fail in its target of offering boosters to the 32million most vulnerable, including all over-50s, by Christmas Day.
At the current rate, of about 300,000 doses a day, nearly 10million at-risk Britons will still be unprotected over the festive period.
While ministers have blamed the slow rollout on eligible Britons not coming forward when called, there have been numerous reports of people desperate to get their booster being turned away or getting lost in the booking system.
There has also been discussion about Britons needing a Covid booster every winter, similar to a flu vaccine, in order to keep immunity levels high.
On Sunday Department of Health bosses reported a drop in Covid numbers, recording 30,305 Covid cases on Sunday compared to 38,009 the week prior.
The number of people dying with the virus also fell by 16 per cent, with 62 laboratory-confirmed deaths reported yesterday compared to 74 on October 31.
Hospitalisations also fell to 1,055 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for. They were down 3.2 per cent on the previous week.
However, some scientists however have struck a gloomier tone with Professor Peter Openshaw telling Times Radio the NHS was in a ‘serious situation’ with Covid ‘not over’.
‘There’s an awful lot of Covid still around’ he said.
‘At the moment we’re seeing admission rates running at something like 1,000 people per day and there’s currently over 1,000 people on mechanical ventilators in our hospitals.
‘And I just don’t think people realise the serious situation that there is out there in the NHS hospitals, with so many people on ventilators and over 9,000 people actually in the hospital currently with Covid.
‘Covid isn’t done. It’s not over.’
And on Saturday Labour wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning he has allowed the ‘wall of defence to crumble’, with the slow uptake of the booster campaign, risking another national lockdown.
They are calling for urgent action to speed up booster and children’s jabs, such as recalling volunteers and retired healthcare workers and using more community pharmacies.
Experts say ministers can ‘turbocharge’ the rollout by using the same infrastructure that saw Britain lead the world in the initial rollout, when up to 844,000 jabs were delivered each day.
MPs are being bombarded with requests for help from constituents.
Labour shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: ‘One lady in her 70s who has underlying health conditions went to her pharmacy and called 119 just to be told she wasn’t eligible for a booster.
‘She has now finally got one booked for December but had to rely on her daughter to book the appointment for her because she doesn’t use the internet. The system simply isn’t working.’
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