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Former vaccine chief returns to NHS in renewed drive to deliver booster jabs



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he former head of England’s coronavirus vaccine delivery drive has been drafted back into the job from Downing Street amid rising concern over the rates of coronavirus heading into winter.

Dr Emily Lawson had been behind the original success of the rollout of the Covid-19 jabs, but was seconded to No 10’s delivery unit – a team in charge of ensuring the Government delivers on its policies – in April.

But now, in a move which could indicate the pressure ministers expect the NHS to come under this winter, Dr Lawson has returned to the health service as it steels itself for the winter months.

It comes as scientific advisers told the Government that it must ensure “Plan B” restrictions to tackle coronavirus can be “rapidly” deployed if needed.

Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said in minutes of a meeting published on Friday that a further huge spike in infections as seen in January was “increasingly unlikely”, as experts predicted a series of broader, flatter peaks as the virus continues to spread.

However, in its meeting dated October 14, Sage warned that measures from the Government’s Plan B would have greatest effect if brought in in unison and earlier on rather than later.

Scientists are in favour of a relatively light-touch approach, implemented earlier to make a difference, with Sage saying the “reintroduction of working-from-home guidance is likely to have the greatest individual impact on transmission out of the proposed measures” in Plan B, which also includes the mandatory use of face masks.

The group also advised that “policy work on the potential reintroduction of measures should be undertaken now so that it can be ready for rapid deployment”.

It comes as the Chancellor told The Times that the country could not return to “significant economic restrictions” and that the vaccine rollout meant this was not necessary.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA) / PA Wire

Boris Johnson also said on Friday that another lockdown was not planned.

On a visit to a vaccination centre in west London, he was asked whether a full lockdown with “stay at home” advice and shops closing was out of the question this winter, and he replied: “I’ve got to tell you at the moment that we see absolutely nothing to indicate that that’s on the cards at all.”

However, messaging urging people eligible to get the Covid booster jabs was being ramped up amid a lower enthusiasm than for the initial doses.



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