Sajid Javid Says It's "Not Possible" To Reach Zero-Covid In The UK As Cases Rise Dramatically
Sajid Javid has said it was "not possible" to run a zero-Covid strategy in the UK
The Health Secretary has insisted the government's "defence" against Covid is working but said the UK would not be able to implement a "zero Covid" approach due to the emergence of a more infectious form of the Omicron variant.
On Sunday Sajid Javid announced a further booster dose would soon be available to protect the most vulnerable from Covid with infections likely to continue rising.
Cases of Covid-19 have been steadily increasing in recent weeks, with the number of people being hospitalised also slightly increasing as a result of new infections.
Javid said the new BA.2 variant of the virus, which is more infectious than the original strain, meant it was "simply not possible" for the UK to consider implementing a zero infection programme such as those attempted by China and Hong Kong.
Speaking on Monday, the Health Secretary said the rise in infections was due to both the new variant and the increase in social mixing after the final restrictions were dropped last month, but insisted cases were "way below their peak".
"We are exactly at the right place. Vaccine waning and effectiveness is something we monitor almost on a daily basis," he told Sky News.
"With Omicron, we are a past the peak now, we have come down from that level although infections are rising, case numbers are rising and hospitalisations have risen a bit in the last two weeks, they are still way below their peak."
Javid said it waas always expected that cases would climb once the final restrictions were removed, a situation now exacerbated by the new BA.2 variant.
"But thankfully these vaccines we have are just as effective against it," he added.
A new booster programme will soon allow the over-75s and those living in care homes to received a further booster jab to protect against the virus.
"This will allow that group of people which are at most serious to top up their protection against this virus and give them that extra level of confidence," he said.
Javid defended the government's decision to press ahead with plans to scrap the free lateral flow testing programme from next month despite a rise in cases.
"I don't think the two things are necessarily related," he said.
"Obviously if there are fewer tests around the fewer will be used, but the question really is do we still need to have a universal free testing offer which, as it sounds is for everyone who wants a test, and our determination based on the advice we received is that is no longer necessary."
The decision to scrap free testing has been heavily criticised by Labour and several leading trade unions, who have warned the strategy would leave people unable to afford to test even if they were concerned they were infected.
Speaking last month, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the government could have continued to fund the free testing regime if they hadn't "wasted billions on dodgy PPE and fradulent Covid loans".
"Free tests can't go on forever, but this is the wrong decision at the wrong time," he said.
"While infections remain high and we face the risk of new strains, testing is crucial for keeping infections under control and preventing the return of restrictions on our lives, livelihoods and liberties.
"Testing is particularly important for frontline workers and immunocompromised people who are more vulnerable to the virus."
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