The UK’s level of cases and deaths is the highest in Europe and second highest in the world after the US.
Although their scientific advisers are increasingly worried about the NHS’s ability to cope this winter, ministers seem reluctant to speak about Covid. “They are spooked by NHS waiting lists and wondering how the hell they will get them down,” one ministerial aide told me, in a week when the number of people on the list rose to a record 5.74 million.
Talking up the potentially dangerous combination of Covid and flu does not fit with Boris Johnson’s preferred mix of optimism and boosterism. Perhaps ministers are suffering from Covid fatigue, like many members of the public and parts of the media. Ministers point out the figures are not yet in the 50,000 to 100,000 range predicted. True, they have their hands full wrestling with supply chain problems which, for now, pose a bigger threat to Christmas than the pandemic.
Johnson is desperately hoping to avoid another Downing Street press conference at which he urges or even orders people to wear masks or work from home. But the other two amigos are warning that the battle against Covid is not over. Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical offier, said this winter will be “exceptionally diffiult” for the NHS and Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, warned that we’re not out of the woods”.
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