A Covid-19 news briefing will be held in Downing Street this afternoon amid growing calls for ministers to implement Plan B for responding to coronavirus.
Sajid Javid will lead the 5pm press conference, which is expected to urge the elderly and vulnerable to accept a third vaccine dose as part of the government’s booster jab campaign.
The health secretary will also provide an update on the work of the Antivirals Taskforce.
A fresh vaccine drive is being pushed in response to growing infection rates, which many experts are worried will lead to an increase in death rates.
The UK has the “highest case rate and the highest death rate in Europe”, according to former health secretary Jeremy Hunt – and the number of fatalities recorded on Tuesday were the highest since early March.
Many experts are urging ministers to respond by implementing Plan B – a set of measures, including a face mask mandate, the government has warned could return if the coronavirus situation gets out of hand.
Plan B could also involve introducing vaccine passports for nightclub entry – and work from home advice could return.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng ruled out another lockdown this winter, but did not reject the idea that Plan B could be used.
Ministers are “looking at the situation in real time” he said, as he acknowledged “infection rates are rising” – but death and hospitalisation rates are “much, much lower than they were at the beginning of this year and we’re learning to live with the virus”.
Asked about the prospect of another lockdown, the minister said: “I rule it out.”
It has not yet been revealed whether any government experts will be joining Mr Javid at the Downing Street press conference but England’s chief medical officer is already warning people about the winter months ahead.
Chris Whitty said on Twitter that “now is the time” for unvaccinated people to get jabbed and “if you are offered a booster please take up the offer”.
He added that “ventilation, masks in crowded indoor spaces and hand washing remain important”.