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Watch again: Sajid Javid addresses soaring Covid cases at Downing Street press conference

20 October 2021, 16:18 | Updated: 20 October 2021, 19:29

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sajid Javid has announced plans to use antiviral drugs this winter amid concerns over rising coronavirus cases.

In a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, the Health Secretary also urged those who are eligible to step forward for their booster jabs ahead of a difficult winter.

In his address to the nation, he focussed on the booster jab rollout and resisted calls to reintroduce some restrictions to avoid a winter NHS crisis.

However, he did urge people to meet outside where possible, or ensure rooms are ventilated, and to wear masks in crowded spaces.

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

READ MORE: Govt secures two new antiviral drugs to help treat vulnerable Covid patients this winter

None of these restrictions are mandatory, but Mr Javid urged people to "do their bit" to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.

He warned that cases, which are currently at almost 50,000 a day, could increase to 100,000.

Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng earlier "categorically" ruled out another lockdown, telling LBC: "I don't know where this language has come from."

"I think any talk of lockdowns is just not at all helpful and it’s not going to happen," he added.

Ministers also have no plans to activate the Government's winter Covid "Plan B", with a Downing Street spokesman insisting this afternoon: "Our focus remains on ensuring we get boosters out to those who are eligible."

"Plan B" could include legally mandating face coverings in some settings, introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid-status certification and asking people to work from home.

It comes as coronavirus deaths in the UK rose to their highest daily level since early March, while cases are at their highest for almost three months.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents health bodies, has warned "we risk stumbling into a winter crisis" unless measures are introduced now. 

Just over 67% of the UK population has received two doses of vaccine, according to Government figures - compared with at least 75% in Denmark, 79% in Spain and 86% in Portugal.

England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, tweeted earlier: "Covid-19 cases are rising and winter is drawing closer. 1) If you have not been vaccinated, now is the time. 2) If you are offered a booster please take up the offer. 3) Ventilation, masks in crowded indoor spaces and hand washing remain important."

You can watch the press conference at the top of this article.