Ministers are reportedly planning to introduce ‘firebreak’ restriction in October should hospital admissions remain high, a senior Minister and a scientist told the i newspaper.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it is his “absolute priority” to have a successful booster jab programme for the vulnerable and elderly.
Speaking to Sky News Zahawi did not deny that “firebreak” restrictions could be introduced in October.
He said the booster programme “absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status.”
He cautioned the “one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy” will only happen if the booster programme goes “well”.
A scientist who advises the government and is a member of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the i newspaper the UK is soon to go into an “extended peak” of Covid infections.
This may force the government to bring back restrictions over the school half-term next month, but said it is unlikely a full lockdown will happen and will only be the last resort.
Zahawi told Kay Burley, “So the vaccines have actually allowed us to reach an equilibrium with the virus in the sense that they have prevented over 100,000 deaths, many, many millions of infections and of course hospitalisations as well.
“The upward pressure on infections is as, obviously, we have reopened the economy to pretty much as close to normal as you can get.”
He added, “So the booster programme that we have had interim advice from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] on is my absolute priority.
“That will protect the most vulnerable to serious infection – that will absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status.
“The important thing is that we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy and, by next year hopefully, transitioning the virus from pandemic to endemic and dealing with it on an annual basis.”
An adviser for Sage, Professor John Edmunds, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, “I don’t want to say it’s just about schools opening because it isn’t, it’s with a wider reopening of society that I think we’d expect to see now summer’s over organisations will be starting to expect their employees back at work in the office, and I think that employees want to go back to the office, and all of that will add to increased contact rates and increased risk in society.
“So I think we will see increased cases now in the coming months.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said emergency powers are still required should the situation change.
He said, “With regards to what comes next we need to carefully monitor the situation.
“As a responsible government, we retain the ability to take further steps if necessary but it is thanks to significant defences of the vaccination programme that we are able to be one of the most open societies in Europe.
“And we will continue to push forward with vaccination programmes and that remains the case.”