United Kingdom

Covid live: UK reports 43,992 cases and 54 deaths; protests in Brussels turn violent

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There is a difference in the personnel around the table making the call this year: Steve Barclay and Sajid Javid have replaced Michael Gove and Matt Hancock, who were the key voices for caution last December.

Gove was a particular champion of vaccination certification and more sceptical of calls for returns to the office, while Hancock spoke forcefully about the pressures the NHS could experience. All of those contributions appear absent from the debate now.

Johnson and Javid are firm believers that a pact was made with the public that the vaccine was the way out of the pandemic – so the government has directed its firepower into turbocharging the booster vaccine campaign.

Javid will also direct the NHS to offer new antiviral treatment to the most vulnerable to take at home if they have a positive diagnosis, rather than wait to be admitted to hospital with the virus.

One adviser for the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) described that tactic this week as “all the eggs in one basket”, with hopes pinned almost entirely on scientific intervention to halt the spread of the variant rather than human behaviour.

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