Boris Johnson’s top medical and scientific advisers warned that ‘winter is coming’ and he might need to ‘go early and go hard’ with restrictions today – as the PM said compulsory masks and Covid passports are being ‘kept in reserve’ if booster jabs and vaccines for schoolchildren fails to keep the disease under control.
Fronting a press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the PM insisted that the UK was ‘incomparably’ better placed to deal with the disease this year.
He said he hoped the situation could be kept stable with more jabs and the public behaving sensibly – although ministers have made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out as a ‘last resort’.
But Prof Whitty gave a more downbeat assessment, invoking the famous mantra from hit TV show Game of Thrones by warning that ‘winter is coming’. He said that infections were ‘high’ relative to last year, and the NHS was under ‘extreme pressure’ even though vaccines were helping significantly.
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick seemed to send a thinly-veiled message to Mr Johnson by saying that when it comes to measures to stem cases the lesson was ‘you have to go earlier than you want to, you have to go harder than you want to’.
The premier was addressing the nation just hours after it emerged his mother had died, and thanked people for their condolences.
But his winter plan has alarmed businesses and enraged Tory MPs, who heckled Sajid Javid in the Commons as he said it includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory ‘in certain settings’, more working from home and social distancing if the NHS is under threat.