Health Minister: 'Go ahead' and book Christmas parties but come forward for booster jab

21 October 2021, 09:02 | Updated: 21 October 2021, 09:06

By Megan Hinton

Health Minister Ed Argar has said the public should “go ahead” and book Christmas parties despite concerns around rising coronavirus cases, as he urged people to come forward and get the booster jab.

As the government warns Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day this winter - Health Minister Ed Argar has said people can start to book Christmas parties ahead of the festive season.

When asked by Nick Ferrari this morning whether he could book a staff Christmas party, Mr Argar replied: “I would anticipate if people do what they are doing, get those jabs, continue at pace, I would say yes.

"We see the restrictions at the moment, there aren’t restrictions on whether you can do that, so therefore go ahead.”

Read more: Govt secures two new antiviral drugs to help treat vulnerable Covid patients this winter

Read more: Javid's jabs plea: Health Sec says 'get your booster' as he rules out Covid Plan B

The Health Minister added that the public should continue to be “cautious and sensible” as the race between the disease and the vaccine “is getting tighter”.

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day this winter whilst virologist Dr Chris Smith, from the University of Cambridge, said half of Covid cases are asymptomatic, meaning the UK is "probably already close to 100,000 cases a day anyway, we just don't know about lots of them".

In a press conference on Wednesday, the Health Sec announced that the government has secured two new antiviral drugs, which it says will help treat the most vulnerable Covid patients this Christmas.

However, Mr Javid quickly ruled out speculation that the government could bring back restrictions, such as mandatory face masks and meeting outdoors.

Read more: 'Wilfully negligent': Doctors call on Government to enforce Covid 'Plan B'

The British Medical Association (BMA) has accused the government of being "wilfully negligent" by not implementing further restrictions amid soaring cases.

The BMA criticised the decision, suggesting "far more extreme measures" would have to be reintroduced late down the line if the government did not "learn the lessons of the past and act fast".

The back-up plan would see the return of restrictions such as mandatory face masks, working from home and, as a last resort, lockdowns.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The Westminster Government said it would enact ‘Plan B’ to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed; as doctors working on the frontline, we can categorically say that time is now.

Read more: What is the UK's Covid-19 winter 'Plan B'?

"By the Health Secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown.

"It is therefore incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS. Especially as we head into winter, when the NHS is in the grips of tackling the largest backlog of care, with an already depleted and exhausted workforce.

"The Government has taken its foot off the brake, giving the impression that the pandemic is behind us and that life has returned to normal. The reality today is an unacceptable rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, unheard of in similar European nations."

He went on to say: "It is wilfully negligent of the Westminster Government not to be taking any further action to reduce the spread of infection, such as mandatory mask wearing, physical distancing and ventilation requirements in high-risk settings, particularly indoor crowded spaces. These are measures that are the norm in many other nations.