Jonathan Van-Tam warned Britons today that another Christmas lockdown could be in the works if people think the Covid crisis has ended. 

England’s deputy chief physician officer stated that there were upcoming ‘hard’ months and that the country’s infected rate was ‘running high’ as we head into what is expected a challenging winter for the NHS.

He said, in one of his famous analogies: “The final whistle on Covid still hasn’t blown yet.”

He urged the nation to behave responsibly and emphasised the importance of face masks — but did not outright call for their enforced return in public spaces.

Addressing the nation in a Q&A this morning, Professor Van-Tam told BBC Breakfast: ‘Too many people believe that this pandemic is now over. It is still winter, and I believe there are many difficult months ahead.

“Christmas and all of the darker months of winter are potentially going be problematic.”

When asked how another festive lockdown could be prevented he stated that it depended upon ‘how careful we are’ and UK’s vaccination drives. He encouraged people to attend their flu jabs or boosters when invited.

No10 is offering booster vaccines to people over 50 and vulnerable patients. There are also jabs available for children 12 years old.

However, the Government has indicated that it will have to implement its winter “Plan B”, including the return and replacement of coverings, as well working from home and vaccination passports at large events, in case the NHS comes under a lot of pressure in the coming months.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, says there are still 'hard months to come' and the country was 'running hot' too early in autumn

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, says there are still ‘hard months to come’ and the country was ‘running hot’ too early in autumn

No10’s advisory panel member on vaccines says it’s too early to follow the US in blaming children as young as FIVE 

After the US yesterday confirmed that it would continue with the rollout, the UK’s vaccine advisory group member today said that it was ‘far too soon’ to start jabbing children as young at five.

Professor Jeremy Brown, a member the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), stated that the UK medicines regulator has yet to review data on whether Britain should start jabbing five- to eleven-year-olds.

He said that there may be a case to jab vulnerable children, and the decision about whether or not to vaccinate the entire age group will depend upon the current infection rates.

It comes after the US said last night that it would continue to vaccinate children aged 5-11 with the Pfizer jab.  

The UK has not yet limited its vaccine program beyond 12 years. The JCVI advised the Government not to make the move as the margin of benefit from jabbing all age groups was too small.

The chief medical officers of the four UK nations decided to continue with the jabs in order to lessen disruption to their education.

According to the most recent official figures, only one fifth of children aged 12-16 had received a single dose as of October 24, 2012.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief physician officer, said today that the UK’s expansion of the rollout to children under 12 years old is’someway down the tracks’.

There are signs that infections may be beginning to decline. The Government’s scientific advisory panel stated that people should remain cautious and that Covid should not push the NHS to the brink.

For the first time in weeks, daily infections in England dropped below 30,000 yesterday. In the UK too, cases have fallen in nine days.

There is cautious optimism that children are starting to show greater immunity.

Asked what stage of the ‘game’ Britain is with Covid, Professor Van-Tam told BBC Breakfast: ‘I would say we’re kind of half-time in extra time, and I think the final whistle in terms of — I can’t predict it — but my personal view is that we’ve got a few more months to run, and I think we’ll be in a much calmer set of waters by spring.

‘But I think, until then — caution, be very careful, this is not quite over and vaccines, boosters, really important.’

He added: ‘I think a whole range of behaviours, including the use of face coverings, but generally the caution that people take or don’t take in terms of interacting with each other — that is going to be a big determinant in what happens between now and the kind of darkest months of the winter.

‘The other things that are going to be really important are how people respond if they are in need of a booster, if they are in need of flu vaccine, if they are partially vaccinated, or indeed if they are unvaccinated — that will be another really important factor in terms of what happens over the next few months.’

According to the leading scientist, Covid levels in the UK are still very high.

He stated, “It’s concerning to scientists that we’re running this hot so early in the fall season.

“And so, from this perspective, I’m afraid that it’s caution followed by caution and we need to monitor these data very carefully indeed over a few days and weeks.”

Let’s focus on the numbers. Professor Van-Tam stated that hospital admissions have slowed in the past four days and that there has been a slight drop in the number patients being treated for Covid in wards.

Official data shows there were 1,002 UK hospitalisations on October 29, which marked the fifth day in a row of four-digit admissions.

‘What that tells me is that we have to just wait and see a bit longer — this could be a pause before things go up, it could be the very first signs that things are beginning to stabilise but at a high rate,’ he said.

“On cases, however, they are now starting falling, but that is mostly due to the fact that this huge wave we had in teenagers now seems to be slipping away.

“But my concern, however, is that the deaths are increasing. That shows that the infection has now begun to penetrate into older age groups.

‘And that’s why the really key thing is that if you are called for your booster, if you are called for your flu vaccine, please go and get them — this could be really very important this winter, it is not the time to be complacent.’

Professor Van-Tam asked the NHS to be clearer about when booster shots may be due to take place, and added that it is not yet known whether people will require repeat boosters.

He stated that everyone wants to go faster on the booster program, but that there is now a lot of momentum.

Experts yesterday warned Britain’s Covid booster jab drive is still going too slowly.

Official figures show that 1.6 million people in England received their third dose of the medication last week. This is a slight improvement on the slow pace of the drive, which was only reaching 1.1million seven days per week at the beginning October. 

Professor Van-Tam said that making facemasks mandatory in England is a matter for ministers, as well as in places like the House of Commons.

He stated that he didn’t believe he was able to judge every interaction that occurs in any workplace, including the House of Commons.

He stated that he supports the use of masks in certain settings, but that the Department for Education advises that face masks should not generally be worn in schools.

He said, “I can see that they could interfere with the natural expressions learning in children involving speech or facial expression.” It’s hard for children to learn in schools that have face masks.

When asked if 12- to 17-year olds could be given a second dose, he replied that the Joint Commission for Vaccination and Immunisation is still considering the matter.

He stated that the recommended dose was one and that second jabs would only be given to 16-to-17-year-olds if the JCVI recommends additional doses.

The JCVI is moving slowly and cautiously’, he stated, adding that there is ‘plenty’ of time to make decisions about second doses.