It was recently reported that Bassetlaw Hospital has recorded its busiest day on record in A&E. Whilst re-opening society has been hugely successful, we must remember that we are not completely out of the woods yet and many are still working under intense pressure.
This week the Prime Minister set out our plan for managing Covid this autumn and winter. Thinking back to where we were last September as schools went back and the colder months approached, in one way our position today is more challenging.
We have higher levels of daily cases – thousands more, but in many other crucial respects the British people – all of us collectively and individually – are incomparably better placed to fight the disease.
We have more than 80 per cent of all over 16s now double vaccinated. We have Covid antibodies in around 90 per cent of the adult population. We have seen the extraordinary vaccine-induced falls in deaths and serious disease. Depending on your age, you are up to 9 times more likely to die if you are unvaccinated, than if you have had both jabs.
The result of this vaccine campaign is that we have one of the most free societies and one of the most open economies in Europe. That is why we will now continue with our current strategy. We will continue to offer testing, and continue to urge people to be sensible, to be responsible, to wash hands, use ventilation, consider wearing a face covering in crowded places with people you do not know, to stay at home if you feel unwell, and to download and use the app.
We are investing massively in our NHS to meet the pressures of Covid with an additional £5.4 billion in England over the next six months, on top of the almost £36 billion over the next three years to help our NHS recover and fix the long-standing problems of social care.
We are helping to vaccinate the world with 100 million doses for developing countries by next June. This country should continue to be very proud that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains the workhorse of global immunisation.
We will keep further measures in reserve – a Plan B. We do not see the need now to proceed with mandatory certification but we will continue to work with the many businesses that are getting ready for such a scheme. Indeed over 200 events have already used it voluntarily. It is simply not sensible to rule out this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping businesses open at full capacity or not.
We will also keep the option of mandating face masks or advising people to work from home, reflecting the fact that when a large proportion of the country has immunity, smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence that we will not need the lockdowns of the past.
We will of course continue to update our advice based on the latest data. But in the meantime we are confident in the vaccines that have made such a difference to our lives.
Covid sadly still remains a risk, but I am confident that we can keep going with our plan to turn jabs into jobs and protect the gains that we have made together.