Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

This comes as UK Covid cases top more than 50,000 for the first time in three months, in what NHS chief Amanda Pritchard has called a “critical period”, adding that, in Winter, “this cruel virus spreads more easily”. The Prime Minister urged those who become eligible for a third dose of vaccine to organise an appointment straight away.

On Thursday, the UK recorded 52,009 new Covid cases and 115 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

But despite the rising cases, the Prime Minister has reassured the public that the government is “continuing with its plan”, saying that things are much better now than a year ago.

He said that this is largely thanks to the rollout of the vaccine, which has weakened the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

NHS staff have so far delivered more than 4.5million boosters and third jabs in the four weeks since the booster programme began, including more than 255,000 yesterday.

The last time UK Covid cases rose above 50,000 was on 17 July 2021, which came several weeks after hospitality resumed and more households could mix together.

Doctors are demanding ministers trigger England’s “Plan B” – which would reimpose rules such as mandatory face masks and working from home advice.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said that Dr Lawson will be a “huge asset” to the programme.

She said: “It’s great news that Emily has agreed to return to lead the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme as our response to the pandemic enters another crucial phase.

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“Vaccines are a key line of defence against Covid and Emily’s wealth of experience, skill and her knowledge of the programme will be a huge asset as we prepare for winter.

Dr Lawson said: “The next phase of the vaccination programme is extremely important – we know that the vaccine is helping us to save lives and so we must focus all of our efforts on rolling out the booster campaign to everyone eligible, as well as ensuring that everyone who has not yet had their first jab, including young people, get the chance to come forward.

“I am once again really looking forward to working with Amanda and other wonderful colleagues in the NHS on the challenge ahead and ensuring that the public are provided with maximum protection from the virus this winter.”

Professor Willett, who was overseeing the launch of the boosters programme while Dr Lawson was seconded to Downing Street, will be resuming his role in the Covid incident team.

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Ms Pritchard said: “Keith will now return to the Covid incident team for this critical period, when we know this cruel virus spreads more easily, having led the operational response last winter, the most challenging time in NHS history.

“I want to thank him for leading the vaccines team through the last few months and ensuring that millions of people could get their lifesaving Covid jab.

“Vaccination is the best way to avoid catching Covid or becoming seriously ill so if you are eligible for a booster, or have not yet had a jab, please do come forward and take up the offer.”

Dr Lawson won a reputation as one of the NHS’s most impressive bosses, after she oversaw NHS England’s ‘vaccine deployment programme’ from November to August last year.

Under her leadership, the UK’s vaccination rate over summer outstripped that of EU countries, with more than a million jab appointments booked each day in June.

Sir Simon Stevens, former chief executive of the NHS, said the programme should be a model for how the service is run.

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