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COVID-19: Javid refuses to deny plans for more restrictions as he accuses anti-vaxxers of having ‘damaging impact’

Sajid Javid has refused to deny that ministers are planning for a two-week circuit breaker after Christmas, as he accused those unwilling to have the vaccine of having a “damaging impact” on society.

When pushed on reports that ministers are drawing up plans to introduce more restrictions after Christmas, the health secretary told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme the government will “do what is necessary”, but that any change must be “backed up by the data”.

He added that ministers are discussing the latest coronavirus data “almost on an hourly basis” with scientific advisers.

“We’ve shown in the past as government in dealing with this pandemic that we will do what is necessary but it’s got to be backed up by the data,” the health secretary said when probed on any possible plans.

“We are watching the data and discussing it with our scientists and our best advisers almost on an hourly basis. And we will monitor that very carefully. We will keep the situation under review.”

Mr Javid then reiterated that various factors, including vaccinations for COVID-19, mean “the situation today in terms of our defences is very different”.

He also confirmed that Parliament would be recalled if the government believed introducing further restrictions was necessary adding that “it would have to be a decision for Parliament”.

His comments came after senior government scientists suggested that extra restrictions are needed “within days” to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by Omicron.

The Sun newspaper suggested possible tougher measures could be imposed after Boxing Day – but that a contingency plan had not yet been presented to ministers.

Sky News understands experts who produce advice for ministers believe there are now “hundreds of thousands” of infections every day, many more than the number of official cases recorded on the daily dashboard.

On Saturday, the British Medical Association warned that almost 50,000 doctors, nurses and other NHS staff in England could be off sick with COVID-19 by Christmas Day if the government fails to introduce any further measures to stop the spread of the virus.

It is urging the government to now introduce further measures, above and beyond its booster strategy, to stem the spread of the virus – including reducing levels of social contact.

The group said that the consequences of the NHS becoming incapacitated over the Christmas period “do not bear thinking about”.

Projections considered by the SAGE advisory committee on Thursday show that hospitalisations are expected to increase from their current level of 900 a day to between 1,000 and 2,000 a day by the end of the year.

They are likely to peak in January at well over 3,000 every day, even with the current Plan B restrictions.

The health secretary also told Sky News that 10% of the population – more than five million people – have still not taken up the offer of the vaccine, and that around nine out of 10 of those needing the most hospital care were unvaccinated.

“They must really think about the damage they are doing to society… they take up hospital beds that could have been used for someone with maybe a heart problem, or maybe someone who is waiting for elective surgery,” Mr Javid said.

“But instead of protecting themselves and protecting the community they choose not to get vaccinated. They are really having a damaging impact and I just can’t stress enough, please do come forward and get vaccinated.”

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