Despite the large and growing number of coronavirus cases, the British government on Wednesday rejected calls for re-imposing some of the restrictions in England, saying the rollout of booster shots would contain the worsening situation.
“We need to step up the use of the booster jab,” Kwasi Quarteng, business secretary, told the BBC in a TV interview. He said that this would “give us more protection” and that he does not want to “go back to a situation where we have blockages.”
The government claims that the number of hospitalizations remained low due to the high vaccination rate. But the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against infection is declining, and the UK, which introduced vaccines early on, now has one of the highest rates of new reported cases in the world. Vaccines continue to provide reliable protection against hospitalizations and deaths.
Daily cases exceeded 40,000 for seven consecutive days, reaching 49,139 on Wednesday, and 869 patients were admitted to hospital on October 16. Although the death toll is still low compared to last winter, the daily death toll rose on Tuesday. to 223, the highest level since March, falling to 179 on Wednesday.
Cases in the UK are on the rise, analysts say, because large numbers of children are unvaccinated and there is no need to cover up in schools. The wearing of masks is less common among adults than in some other parts of Europe, where they are often required indoors and where per capita cases are much lower.
Health professionals have recommended reinstating some measures, such as the mandatory wearing of masks in some places, which were lifted in July when England lifted nearly all of its legislative restrictions on what the tabloid media called “freedom day.”
The National Confederation of Health Services, representing organizations that provide medical services, on Monday asked the government to immediately introduce mandatory face masks in crowded and enclosed areas.
“Without proactive action, we risk facing a winter crisis,” said Confederation Executive Director Matthew Taylor.
In recent months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy has been to focus on deploying boosters to the most vulnerable and vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 15. However, critics say the process has slowed down.
The government of England has postponed proposals to require those who go to nightclubs and attending major events to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result. However, Scotland and Wales require people to show evidence that they are fully vaccinated or negative in order to go to nightclubs or attend major events such as soccer games.
Mr. Johnson could revive such a plan for England, reintroduce masking rules, and encourage people to work from home if cases begin in the winter.
But the government argues that while it is tracking the rise in cases, that alone is not enough to justify a change in strategy. Its main concern is to prevent overloading the UK’s sprawling health care system, and so far vaccinations have kept hospital admissions at an acceptable level, the report said.