Grant Shapps rules out lockdown over Christmas as cases hit a three-month high

Grant Shapps has ruled out another Covid lockdown over Christmas as cases hit a three-month high.

The Transport Secretary said there will ‘be no issues’ with seeing loved ones around the festive period this year.

No10 introduced tough restrictions which stopped millions from seeing their families last December, despite Boris Johnson dismissing the possibility of Christmas being cancelled repeatedly before the move.

Scientists have warned the NHS could be overwhelmed again this winter, with cases reaching 45,066 yesterday, the highest new daily total since July 20.

Professor Chris Whitty yesterday claimed this winter will be ‘exceptionally difficult’ for the NHS even if there is not a surge of infections. He said he could not claim it will be ‘all be fantastic by Christmas’.

England’s chief medical officer warned of tough months ahead for the health service as it battles Covid, flu and other seasonal viruses which are enjoying a resurgence due to a lack of natural immunity during lockdowns. 

But Mr Shapps dismissed concerns Britain could be plunged into another lockdown around Christmas again.

Grant Shapps has ruled out another Covid lockdown over Christmas despite cases hitting a three-month high

He told Sky News: ‘With Christmas last year we were worried about being able to see loved ones and families.

‘There will be no issues with that this year.

‘And we’ll make sure that the supply chain is doing what it should be doing, which is what these measures that we’re taking, including this alteration to this cabotage today is designed to do.’ 

Department of Health bosses posted more than 45,000 Covid cases across the UK yesterday, up 10.7 per cent on last Thursday’s figure of 40,701.

It was the highest new daily total since July 20 — the day after England’s ‘Freedom Day’ — when infections reached 46,558. The highest daily total ever was 62,322 on January 6, at the peak of the second wave.

The number of people dying with the virus also increased, with 157 victims recorded, marking a nine per cent rise on the previous week. 

And hospitalisations also crept up by one per cent, with 719 people being admitted on Sunday, the latest date data is available for.

No10 admits proof of jabs may be required in nightclubs and sports grounds this winter under Covid ‘Plan B’ 

Brits could be required to show Covid vaccine passports at venues under Boris Johnson’s Covid ‘Plan B’. 

Ministers dramatically ditched plans to adopt certification rules for nightclubs and other major venues following a huge Tory outcry earlier this month.

But in unveiling his winter plan to fight off another surge in infections, Boris Johnson admitted restrictions such as vaccine passports would be ‘kept in reserve’.

Now the Government has confirmed passports will still form part of its ‘Plan B’.

Vaccine certificates will be required for people attending nightclubs, music venues, festivals and sports grounds, in the event of a fourth wave overwhelming the NHS.

Plan A — the country’s first line of defence — banks on dishing out booster vaccines to protect the vulnerable and jabbing children.

Plan B — which ministers hope will be enough to stop the country from succumbing to another full-blown lockdown — also includes re-enforcing face masks indoors and work from home guidance.

Speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners’ annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, Professor Whitty suggested Britain could be in a worse situation by Christmas.

He said: ‘I wish I could claim the sunlit uplands and it’ll all be fantastic by Christmas but, sadly, I’m afraid that’s not the case.’ 

Experts have long warned of an expected surge this winter, fuelled by pupils returning to schools, workers heading back to offices and people socialising more indoors.

Ministers are relying on a successful rollout of vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds and boosters to the over-50s, healthcare staff and the most vulnerable to quell the impact of another wave.

But it has put together a ‘Plan B’ that would see the return of face coverings and work from home guidance if the NHS faces unsustainable pressure.

Professor Whitty said: ‘In terms of where Covid will go over the winter, well I think the winter as a whole, I regret to say, is going to be exceptionally difficult for the NHS.

‘That is, irrespective of whether we have a relatively low but non trivial amount of Covid, or whether we actually have a further surge in the winter.’

He said scientific modellers will all give different projections of how the coming months will play out.  

Professor Whitty said: ‘I think what we’re confident of is the very top end, [what] we would have faced potentially had things gone wrong last winter is not going to happen, barring an extraordinary escape mutant variant.

‘But let’s assume we don’t get something which actually can basically evade our defences completely, I think the top end risks are much lower.

‘But we could certainly go up, we’re only two to three doubling times away from a really quite serious pressure on the NHS and it’s already serious, but one that actually will be very difficult to deal with.

‘So the margin of error is quite small.’