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.
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
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid will lead a press conference at Downing Street from 5pm on Wednesday, October 20.
Sajid Javid calls on unvaccinated to come forward for appointments
The Health Secretary repeated the Government’s message to the unvaccinated to take up the offer of a jab, describing it as a “huge step to protect yourself and to protect your loved ones”.
On the threat of new variants, he said: “We need to be ready for what lies around the corner.
“This means our ongoing programme of booster jabs is so important and this winter we’re prioritising those most in need.”
He said England had reached a “milestone” of four million top-up jabs on Wednesday.
He said: “None of us want to go backwards now.
“So we must all play our part in this national mission, and think about what we can do to make a difference. That means getting the jab when the time comes, whether it’s for Covid-19 or flu.”
He stressed that, aside from vaccinations, people can take other measures such as meeting outdoors where possible, ensuring good ventilation, wearing masks in crowded spaces and taking lateral flow tests.
He said: “With winter soon upon us, these little steps make a big difference.
“And they’re more important now than they have ever been.”
Warning not to lose progress
Mr Javid said that as a nation we do not want to lose the progress we have made with coronavirus, urging people to play their part in getting vaccinated and staying safe.
Meanwhile, Professor Powis said the booster vaccines for those eligible are not an “add-on” but a critical part in people’s immunity against Covid-19.
He added: “[People] shouldn’t forget there’s a pandemic.”
Lateral flow tests
The Health Secretary is calling for people to take advantage of free lateral flow tests to protect themselves and others. He added: “There are a lot of things you can do if you want to keep hold of the fantastic progress we’ve made, we’ve all got our role to play.”
The impact on our health service
NHS England’s national medical director said the health service is “very, very busy indeed”.
Professor Stephen Powis told the Downing Street press conference said there are just over 6,000 patients with Covid-19 in main hospitals “which is back to where we were in the middle of September”.
“And I anticipate that over the next week or two that number will increase because infection rates are increasing,” he added.
“It’s not just Covid of course, we have one eye to the flu season and we don’t know what’s going to happen with flu this year but there is a risk that we will get more flu back and it will be worse than previous years because we missed out on a season last year.
“There are other viruses around as well and of course we are continuing to do all that work around the recovery of our elective and routine services so it is very, very busy indeed.”
Professor Powis added: “It undoubtedly feels exceptionally busy in the NHS and our NHS organisations are telling us that all the time.”
When would there be an intervention?
Professor Stephen Powis said there is no specific number of Covid-19 hospital admissions which would trigger interventions.
He said: “There is no one number that we would use to think about triggering interventions because it is more complex than that.
“There is a variety of things that we look at. So we talked about infection rates because they tell us what’s likely to happen in the NHS in the next few weeks, we’ve talked about vaccine effectiveness because that tells us how many people are likely to require hospitalisation.
“And we look at obviously the number of admissions. But we also look at what’s happening with flu and other viruses and what’s happening with other emergency admissions.”
He added: “Of course the final thing to say is that we do see geographical variation, so what’s happening in one part of the country might not be happening in another part of the country. That’s been typical of the pandemic over the last 18 months, and it’s possible that we will see that variation again.
“So there is no one number to look at, we have to look at things in the round, look at all these numbers, use judgments, and of course work closely with colleagues in UKHSA on the public health side, the Department of Health and Social Care, to take a collective judgment.”
Keep the progress going
Towards the end of the briefing, Sajid Javid said the progress made to date could be lost if people don’t take up the offer of a jab.
He said: “We need to sustain the progress that we’ve made, we could lose it.
“We really could lose that progress if people don’t take up their vaccination offers.”
Professor Stephen Powis said it is important people realise how “critical” a booster jab can be.
He said: “I think the important message is that the booster is not some sort of add-on.
“It’s a really critical part of maintaining immunity and if we don’t maintain that level of immunity then yes, we will see infections translate into more hospital admissions and more pressure and unfortunately more deaths.”