How Sajid Javid's press conference unfolded as Government says it will not implement 'plan B'

Health Secretary Sajid Javid led a Downing Street press conference from 5pm on Wednesday, October 20, in which he confirmed that the Government has no current plans to implement further measures – known as “plan B” for tackling coronavirus.

Mr Javid’s appearance on Wednesday came amid mounting concern about rising cases and a faltering vaccination programme, with calls renewed for all those eligible for a jab or booster to come forward for an appointment.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, warned earlier on Wednesday that “we risk stumbling into a winter crisis” unless measures such as face masks and vaccine passports, which form part of the Government’s “plan B” are introduced in England.

He urged ministers to come up with a “plan C” of even tougher restrictions if those measures are insufficient to address pressure on the health service.

Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid is due to give a Downing Street press conference from 5pm on Wednesday, October 20. Picture: Toby Melville-WPA Pool/Getty Images.

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Meanwhile, it was also confirmed on Wednesday that deals have been agreed for two new treatments, which could be used for some of those most vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.

Mr Javid was joined at the press conference by Dr Jenny Harries, UK Health Security Agency’s chief executive, and Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for NHS England.

See some of the main points from Mr Javid’s press conference below.

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Downing Street press conference LIVE: Follow updates from Health Secretary Sajid Javid

Last updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2021, 17:49

Key Events

  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid will lead a press conference at Downing Street from 5pm on Wednesday, October 20.
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Mr Javid said: “Today, as we approach this critical time for our nation’s recovery, I wanted to bring you up to date with some of the work we are doing to strengthen those defences.”

He is now providing details of the antirviral treatments announced at 5pm. Click here for a reminder on that.

‘The gap is narrowing'

The Health Secretary has said the gap between the vaccine and the virus is now narrowing, and is calling for everyone who is eligible for a vaccine, or for a booster, to come forward now and take up the offer.

“We can’t be complacent when Covid-19 remains such a threat.”

Call for mask-wearing on public transport

Trade union Unite, which represents tens of thousands of transport workers, has called for the return of mandatory face mask wearing on public transport.

The union’s national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton, said: “The Government can no longer pretend that Covid-19 is not a risk and needs to take immediate action to protect key workers and passengers.

“By reintroducing mask wearing the danger of infection to both bus workers and passengers is significantly reduced.

“This is a sensible measure the Government could and should take that does not damage the economy in anyway.

“The reintroduction of mask wearing must go hand-in-hand with the proper enforcement of such rules.”

Mr Javid told the conference that coronavirus, like other viruses, mutates - and we must be ready for whatever is round the corner.

He said that they are “identifying new variants all of the time”, including a new Delta variant, currently known as AY4.2.

The new variant is spreading.

‘We have the jabs, we just need the arms to put them in'

All of those who are eligible for jabs and boosters are being urged to come forward for their own safety “but for your freedoms too”.

With regards to boosters, Mr Javid reminded everyone who falls into one of the eligible categories that they can book once they reach six months from their second dose.

Sajid Javid said: “Little steps make a big difference, and they are more important now than they have ever been. If we all play our part, then we can give ourselves the best possible chance in this race, get through this winter, and enjoy Christmas with our loved ones.””

The Health Secretary also outlined a number of steps that people can take to stay safe and mitigate their risk:

* Meet outdoors where it is possible

* Let fresh air in indoors or wear face coverings in crowded spaces

* Take lateral flow tests as part of your weekly routine

Dr Jenny Harries, UK Health Security Agency’s chief executive, and Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for NHS England, have joined Mr Javid at the press conference. Dr Harries has been outlining some of the most recent Covid stats, and the impact that the vaccination and booster programmes are having on serious illness and death.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, she said: “What we can see is that the cases now are almost as high as they were in July and actually not far off where they were last winter.

“What we are not seeing is that dip down again at the other side of the peak and that is really important because we are kicking off the winter at a really high level of cases.

“Fortunately that is not currently working through into serious disease and deaths.”

Questions from the public and press

Ruth, from Cornwall, presented a question about the mandatory use of face coverings, due to a rise in cases.

Mr Javid said: “We still feel it’s absolutely the right decision to start to learn to live with this virus.”

The Goverment’s “plan B” measures for the colder months would include making face masks mandatory, he added.

Mr Javid has spoken of the need to ensure that the NHS does not become overwhelmed as we head into the colder months. While admitting that the pressures currently facing our health service are “huge”, he went on to say that he doesn’t believe they are currently “unsustainable”.

He told the Downing Street press conference: “We don’t believe that the pressures that are currently faced by the NHS are unsustainable.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are huge pressures especially in A&E, in primary care, for example, as well, but at this point we don’t believe they are unsustainable.

“If we feel at any point it’s becoming unsustainable then the department, together with our friends in the NHS, we won’t hesitate to act.”

Dr Jenny Harries also said there is a “steady increase” in hospital admissions as winter approaches.

The last two days have seen the highest death rates for some time, adding that the number of deaths are “moving in the wrong direction”.

Today’s update on vaccination figures

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