Kwasi Kwarteng Rules Out Future Lockdowns Despite Covid Case Surge
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said that the UK will not need a winter lockdown despite admitting "concern" over a sharp rise of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the UK.
The cabinet minister has dismissed calls for fresh lockdown restrictions to help stop a rise of cases during winter and said he was looking forward to "having a Christmas party as usual".
Over 40,000 new Covid cases have been recorded each day over the past week, with 223 new deaths on Tuesday – the highest daily death toll since March.
But Kwarteng was keen to "rule out" a winter lockdown to protect the NHS, and said the government had "plotted a path" that would keep the UK open while reducing pressure on the health service.
"Clearly, through this process there have been people saying the lockdown was unnecessary and there have been other people saying we should continue the lockdown," he told Sky News.
"We have really plotted a path between those two extremes. I think it has worked."
Kwarteng said while he was "concerned" about the rising number of deaths, he believed the vaccine rollout would protect people during the winter months.
"You'll remember at the beginning of the year we had hundreds, if not thousands, a day," he said.
"Mercifully that hasn't happened and, as the Health Secretary said, it's something we're going to have to live with and I think we are managing the situation.
"The vaccination rollout is key to protecting themselves and their families."
Asked on Times Radio whether he believed companies should book their Christmas parties, he added: "Absolutely, I think I already have. We have got some arrangements in place and I look forward to having a Christmas party as usual."
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the health service was preparing for what could be "the most challenging winter on record, and warned the UK's recovery from pandemic could be "put at risk" if ministers "fail to get a grip" on the rising cases.
"It is time for the government to enact Plan B of its strategy without delay because without pre-emptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis," he said.
Taylor said the Plan B option could include a return to some Covid restrictions, such as the use of vaccine passports in some crowded settings and the reintroduction of mandatory face coverings in public places.
“We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October," he added. "It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months."
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