Rishi Sunak says booster jabs will prevent another lockdown as he defies health ...

Rishi Sunak says booster jabs will prevent another lockdown as he defies health ...
Rishi Sunak says booster jabs will prevent another lockdown as he defies health ...

Rishi Sunak has said booster Covid-19 vaccines will prevent another lockdown as he defied health experts who warned the NHS could be overwhelmed this winter.

The Chancellor said the jabs will remain the government's 'first line of defence' in controlling the virus and stopping the NHS from becoming overwhelmed by the virus this winter.

Mr Sunak said whilst the winter would be 'challenging', he ruled out another lockdown as he echoed the sentiments of Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said the measure was 'not on the cards at all'.

They defied warnings from health chiefs who said Covid infections coupled with high numbers of patients with other infections such as flue could put the NHS under 'significant pressure'.

Mr Sunak's comments come as Britain's daily Covid hospitalisations breached 1,000 for the first time in six weeks on Friday.

And in a move which could indicate the pressure ministers expect the NHS to come under this winter, England's vaccine chief Dr Emily Lawson has been drafted back into the NHS to oversee the Covid booster jab rollout.  

Rishi Sunak has said booster Covid-19 vaccines will prevent another lockdown as he defied health experts who warned the NHS could be overwhelmed this winter

Rishi Sunak has said booster Covid-19 vaccines will prevent another lockdown as he defied health experts who warned the NHS could be overwhelmed this winter

England's vaccine chief Dr Emily Lawson has been drafted back into the NHS to oversea the Covid booster jab rollout

England's vaccine chief Dr Emily Lawson has been drafted back into the NHS to oversea the Covid booster jab rollout

Only 4million out of the 8.7m patients in England who are eligible for a booster now have had one, including just a third of care home residents and half of over-80s.  

But Mr Sunak insisted that the booster jabs and the current vaccine scheme means Britain is in a new phase of controlling the virus. 

He told The Times: 'I think we're just in a very different place to where we were a year ago because of the vaccine. 

'There's this enormous wave of protection, and that changes things. That's our first line of defence.'

Mr Sunak admitted that whilst the winter would be 'challenging', it wouldn't mean resorting to another lockdown. 

'There's a range of options that are available, and those are not options that involve lockdowns or very significant economic restrictions,' he said.

It comes as daily Covid hospitalisations breached 1,000, while infections rose to 49,298 and deaths jumped by a quarter to 180. 

Boris Johnson also said on Friday that another lockdown was not planned during a trip to a vaccine clinic in West London, adding that the current numbers were 'fully in line' with what was expected. 

He admitted working from home and light measures were being 'kept under constant review' but ruled out another lockdown. 'We see absolutely nothing to indicate that that is on the cards at all,' the Prime Minister added.  

SAGE scientists also insisted it was 'highly unlikely' that the NHS would be overwhelmed this winter even without restrictions in advice that justifies No10's bold decision to reject immediately resorting to 'Plan B'. 

But the scientific advisers told the government that it must ensure 'Plan B' restrictions to tackle coronavirus can be 'rapidly' deployed if needed.     

Tory MPs feared Boris Johnson (on a visit to a Covid vaccination centre at Little Venice Sports Centre in London today) would cave to pressure and put the nation on a 'slippery slope' back to another lockdown by triggering the contingency plans. They urged the PM not to be 'bullied' by health chiefs into imposing new rules

Tory MPs feared Boris Johnson (on a visit to a Covid vaccination centre at Little Venice Sports Centre in London today) would cave to pressure and put the nation on a 'slippery slope' back to another lockdown by triggering the contingency plans. They urged the PM not to be 'bullied' by health chiefs into imposing new rules

In documents submitted to ministers last week but only published on Friday, SAGE said there was some evidence that the peak of the third wave, in terms of hospitalisations, 'has already happened'.

But the panel of top scientists — which include Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty — warned against complacency, adding there was still a threat if people suddenly drop all precautions, vaccines suddenly wane in younger groups or a new variant becomes dominant. 

They told the Government to have contingencies in place so that face masks, working from home and vaccine passports can be quickly introduced if the epidemic suddenly deviates from the 'optimistic' modelling. The group said the measures could make a 'big difference' if enacted quickly.

The findings will give the Government confidence that it has made the right decision by not reverting to its winter 'Plan B' despite rising infection rates and pressure from NHS bosses, parts of the media and many scientists. 

Tory MPs feared Boris Johnson would cave to pressure and put the nation on a 'slippery slope' back to another lockdown by triggering the contingency plans. They urged the PM not to be 'bullied' by health chiefs into imposing new rules.  

Official data published today revealed Covid infections have reached their highest level since mid-January with nearly one in 50 infected with the virus last week — but cases are mostly concentrated in children. 

SAGE's scenarios do not look at the burden of flu on the NHS. Experts predict a big spike in influenza admissions this winter due to a lack of natural immunity on the back of lockdown. The modelling also doesn't include efforts to tackle a record-high waiting list triggered by pandemic-disrupted care, which doctors have warned gives them less space to handle a rise in hospitalisations. 

Modelling by SAGE predicted that the combination of vaccine-acquired immunity and natural protection would be enough to keep hospital rates below levels seen in the second wave. Even in the most pessimistic scenarios, the group estimated that daily Covid hospital admissions would not rise above 1,500. More optimistic models had them peaking at below 1,000 in winter. The above charts are based on modelling by Warwick University and look at how quickly people go back to pre-pandemic social contacts. It was based on the booster doses given 'sustained' immunity

Modelling by SAGE predicted that the combination of vaccine-acquired immunity and natural protection would be enough to keep hospital rates below levels seen in the second wave. Even in the most pessimistic scenarios, the group estimated that daily Covid hospital admissions would not rise above 1,500. More optimistic models had them peaking at below 1,000 in winter. The above charts are based on modelling by Warwick University and look at how quickly people go back to pre-pandemic social contacts. It was based on the booster doses given 'sustained' immunity

Other SAGE modelling took into account 'repeated' waning from booster doses, and projected that hospital admissions could breach levels seen during the second wave in January under the worst-case projections

Other SAGE modelling took into account 'repeated' waning from booster doses, and projected that hospital admissions could breach levels seen during the second wave in January under the worst-case projections

Only around 4.5million (green line) out of the 9.3million eligible people (blue line) in England have received the crucial third dose, prompting ministers to urge people to come forward for their inoculations

Boris Johnson delays decision on fresh Covid curbs until after half-term

Boris Johnson has delayed a decision on whether fresh Covid curbs are needed until after half-term in the hope the school break will halt the surge in cases.

Government sources say that ministers have been startled by the rapid spread of the virus among schoolchildren, where infection rates are up to ten times higher than among the wider population.

A source said ministers hoped that next week's half-term holiday in England would break the increase in daily infections, which rose to more than 50,000 yesterday for the first time since July.

The Prime Minister yesterday said that he was sticking with the existing approach for now, despite a growing clamour from the medical profession to move to the Government's 'Plan B'.

The introduction of Plan B would see the return of mandatory face masks, the introduction of controversial vaccine passports and the revival of the work from home guidance.

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Speaking on a visit to the Covid vaccine centre at the Little Venice Sports Centre in west London as the SAGE files were released, the Prime Minister said he was fully confident with the decision to stick to Plan A.

He said: 'Our autumn and winter plan always predicted that cases would rise around about now and we're certainly seeing that in the numbers.'

He said we are seeing 'high levels of infection' but they are not outside the parameters of what was predicted. 'But it's very important that people do follow the guidance on general behaviour, on being cautious, on wearing masks in confined places where you're meeting people you don't normally meet.

'Wear a mask, wash hands, ventilation, all that kind of thing, but also get your booster jab, and that's the key message that we want to get across.

'That's why we've timed it for now because there is some evidence obviously that the vaccines start to wane, and you get really very, very good protection with the booster. I mean, a new study says about 95% protection.

'So we are seeing the numbers come up, yesterday I think we did 250,000 across the country.

'We want to see them ramped up even further. My thanks to everybody for coming forward but we need to see a lot more.'

Mr Johnson, who watched Nitza Sarner, 88, receive her booster, was asked if he will set an example by wearing a mask in Parliament.

He told reporters: 'I think there are lots of steps that we need to take to continue to follow the guidance.

'So commonsensical things – washing your hands, wearing a mask in confined spaces where you don't normally meet other people …where you are meeting people that you don't normally meet I should say.

'That's sensible. But the key message for today is for all people, over 50s, think about getting your booster jab.

'When you get the call, get the jab.'

Asked if he was ignoring advice about working from home, Boris Johnson said: 'We keep all measures under constant review.

'We do whatever we have to do to protect the public but the numbers that we're seeing at the moment are fully in line with what we

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