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Under the Covid blueprint set out by the Government, Plan B includes measures such as vaccine passports, mandatory face masks and advice to work from home. Mr Javid said: “What happens in the NHS is going to be hugely important to me, to the whole country, making sure that we don’t get to a position again where the NHS becomes unsustainable.
“I think we’re going to have to look at a number of measures, so of course that would be the level of hospitalisation, it will be the pressures on A&E, the pressures on the workforce, so we’d have to take all of these together.
“We’ve also got to have plans in place, just in case, for example, there is a new variant of concern. Let’s say it’s highly infectious, has some kind of vaccine-escape capability. We’ve got to prepare for that and have things ready to go just in case.”
Mr Javid also refused to rule out the option of further lockdowns if Covid cases take off again.
He added: “No one wants to see another lockdown. I certainly don’t. I don’t think we are going to need to see another lockdown. I think the vaccines are working.
“But I think it would be irresponsible for any health minister in the world to say that this or that is 100 percent ruled out. Not least because I just don’t know whether at some time in the future ‑ next year, the year after, the year after that ‑ there might be a vaccine-escape variant that doesn’t work with the current suite of vaccines.”
Government scientists have warned that there could be a large jump in hospital admissions if restrictions are not tightened soon.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said its modelling suggested hospitalisations could reach 2,000 to 7,000 per day next month.
Currently, there is an average of just over 750 Covid admissions a day in England. Sage said there is still “the potential for another large wave of hospitalisations” after the return of schools and people going back to their workplaces.
A Sage spokesman said: “If combined with other winter pressures or seasonal effects, this could lead to a difficult few months for the health and care sector.”
The scientists added that a “relatively light set of measures”, suggested as mask-wearing or home-working, could curb infections and should be brought in earlier rather than later in the course of the pandemic.
Mr Javid added: “It is right that experts are looking at what is happening and come up with their best guess of where things might go based on certain assumptions.
“We have to listen to them but eventually make what we think is the right decision.
“There is no risk-free decision, but I think what we have announced in terms of this plan is well thought through.”
But Mr Javid denied the UK is in the same position as this time last year, saying the “big difference” is that vaccines are offering a strong line of defence against Covid.
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