Published: 12:58, 14 September 2021
| Updated: 17:40, 14 September 2021
Sajid Javid has laid out a 'Plan B' for winter if cases of Covid don't continue to fall.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Mr Javid laid out his five pillar plan to protect the NHS from being overrun during the autumn and winter.
But he also said, if the plan does not work the government could be forced to bring back face masks as a legal requirement and home working where possible.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Health Secreatary Sajid Javid said: "We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a 'plan B' of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
"These measures would be communicating clearly and urgently the need for caution. Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings.
"Whilst we're not going ahead with mandatory vaccine only Covid status certification now, we will be holding that power in reserve. As well as these three steps, we'd consider a further measure of asking people to work from home if they can for a limited time if that is supported by the data.
"Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it's one we need to be ready for just in case."
Craig Mackinlay, South Thanet MP, said he was sceptical masks stopped infections being transmitted, admitting that he was not a scientist: "There's been studies around various parts of the world that say mask wearing doesn't really do a lot. I wonder how a fairly flimsy bit of cloth can do much but who knows, I am not a scientist"
Under the goverment's preferred plan, children aged 12 to 15 will be vaccinated against coronavirus and the over-50s will get a booster jab as part of its winter plan for the NHS unveiled today.
Measures have been confirmed that the government believes could be necessary to prevent further outbreaks over the winter, when infections tend to increase, heightening the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed.
Over 50s and the most vulnerable will be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after a second dose.
In an address to the nation at 3.30pm Boris Johnson warned the pandemic is far from over and that society must continue "living with" Covid.
The singer Nicki Minaj was also mentioned after she shared a unsubstantiated story about the vaccine leading to impotency on social media.
The Prime Minister and Professor Chris Whitty both criticised her for the move.
Mr Javid said: "Over the past few months we've been making progress to the road of recovery moving carefully and cautiously to normal life.
"The link between cases, hospitalisatoins and deaths have weakned signficantly. But we must be vigilant as autumn and winter are favourable conditions for Covid and other viruses."
He set out a five pillar programme which included renewed efforts for people to take up the vaccine, a booster programme starting with the most vulnerable, first dose offers for 12-15 year olds, continue offer of free tests, investment in social care, consultation on vulnerable patients.
There will be a renewed effort to get the remaining people eligible for vaccinations to do so, continued test and tracing, encouragement to keep seasonal illnesses at bay including the largest ever flu vaccination campaign and an international approach to the programme.
Children aged 12 to 15 in England will be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab, the government says.
They will have the jab but only if there is parental consent. Jabs will be administered at schools but by NHS staff.
Teaching unions have reacted cautiously to the reports and have urged the government to make clear that it is not teachers who will be giving injections.
Head teachers are receiving letters from pressure groups “threatening” legal action if schools take part in any Covid-19 vaccination programmes.
Under the winter plan, about 30 million people in the UK should be offered a booster jab this winter.
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference later this afternoon.
Alan Brookes, chairman of the Kent Association of Headteachers, said: “My understanding is that schools will be venues; we may have to send out consent forms and pass them on. But if there are discussions around consent they will properly be held by the experts and not schools.
"We will help in any way we can - at the same time, we will try and continue to lobby government on other measures. There is a danger that we become a one trick pony - it is vaccination or nothing. Just because we are focusing on vaccinations doesn't mean that we should forget about some other things.”
Responding to a question on Facebook asking “What measures would you be happy to see to avoid another lockdown?” KentOnline readers called for things to get back to normal.
David Parker said: “We have to learn to live with this virus. Enough is enough now. Flu kills nearly 25,000 a year and we don't stop the everything for that."
Steve Burrows added: “Some consistency would be good too. Don't tell us we can get together at Christmas a few days before it gets cancelled.”
While others called for less severe rules. Wendy Lampert said: “Face masks in shops and on public transport, and sensible social distancing – not a big ask.”