COVID restrictions must immediately be reintroduced if England is to avoid ‘stumbling into a winter crisis,’ health leaders have warned.
The NHS Confederation said a back-up strategy, or Plan B, which includes mandatory face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces, should be implemented.
UK cases have been rising sharply but deaths are still well below the winter peak.
The NHS is on the brink of being overwhelmed in many parts of the UK, amid increasing pressure as winter approaches.
Infections have been increasing markedly since the start of October.
However, the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan, believing that business must come first.
On Tuesday, the country reported 223 Covid-related deaths, marking the highest daily figure since March, while the seven-day average for Covid cases stands at 44,145 a day.
The UK has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world.
Tory Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said yesterday morning that it was ‘not time for Plan B yet’ and urged greater uptake of booster jabs.
He said he did not want further lockdowns, or to jeopardise the ‘hard-won gains’ of reopening the economy.
‘I don’t want to inject any hint of complacency but I think so far our approach is working,’ he said, pointing to lower rates of hospital admissions and deaths than in earlier waves of infection.
Daily Covid cases have been above 40,000 for seven days in a row, with 43,738 new infections reported on Tuesday, and the number of patients in hospital rose by 10% in a week to 7,749 on Monday.
Another 223 deaths were recorded, the largest number since March, although daily figures are often higher on Tuesdays.
- Tory Health Secretary Sajid Javid ruled out a further lockdown at a special news conference from Downing Street held at 5pm yesterday afternoon.
He insisted that the government will focus on vaccinations and booster jabs and not move to implement its winter back-up strategy.
The so-called ‘Plan B’ was to be triggered if the NHS was under ‘unsustainable pressure’. NHS professionals are insisting that the NHS has reached that point. However Javid yesterday insisted that he would not act.
He said: ‘We have always known that the winter months would always pose the biggest threat to our road to recovery.
‘Ahead of winter we are seeing as we expected a rise in infections.
‘They could go as high as 100,000 a day. We are also seeing greater pressure on the NHS.
‘The NHS is seeing extra pressure. Across the UK we are now approaching 1,000 hospitalisations a day.
‘This pandemic is not over. So we must all remember that this virus will be with us for the long term and it remains a threat.
‘We are looking closely to the data and we won’t be implementing our “plan B” of contingency measures at this point.
‘But we will be staying vigilant, preparing for all eventualities, while strengthening our vital defences … as we learn to live with the virus.’
Once again the Tory government is putting the interests of the UK capitalist class before the health and welfare of the masses of workers and young people.
This government must be brought down by the trade unions calling a general strike and be replaced by a workers’ government that will nationalise the economy and put an end to capitalism.
This is the only way to defend the health and safety of workers in the UK.