UK Covid-19 case numbers jump 15 per cent in week after return to work

Infections continue to rise as ministers consider extending mandatory vaccination to more groups

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Covid case numbers in the UK shot up by 15 percent in the past week as millions returned to school and work places, official figures show.

In the past seven days, 272,334 infections were recorded as many Britons headed back to the office for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

The increase comes as speculation grows about a potential mandate on vaccine passports for certain groups of workers while reports suggest the UK may introduce a “mix and match” jab booster programme.

A senior Department of Health insider told the FT that the policy would mean a Pfizer shot eing offered to people who had received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and vice versa, because “it’s the best combination to get as much protection as possible”.

But Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, the scientist behind the Oxford vaccine, said boosters are unnecessary for the majority of people.

By the end of this month people will need to show proof of inoculation to gain entry into nightclubs and plans are in place to make it mandatory for care-home workers in England to be fully vaccinated.

A government consultation is looking into whether the rule should be extended to all NHS workers in England.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said at this stage ministers have “no plans to extend it” to include other groups of workers.

Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, he said: “In England we are focusing it on whether there is clinical need for it so that is why, for example, in care homes we are already mandating it.”

On Thursday the UK recorded 167 more coronavirus-related deaths and 38,013 new cases.

In England the 10 to 19-year-old bracket recorded the highest jump in case numbers this week, with 681.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to September 5. This was a sizeable increase from 478.3 a week earlier.

Most age groups have shown an increase in infections, apart from 20 to 29-year-olds, 60 to 69-year-olds, and people aged 80 and over, according to Public Health England.

The latest figures also show there are more than 8,000 people in UK hospitals with Covid.

The 8,085 patients represent a 6 percent increase on the previous week.

The increase was reported as Health Secretary Sajid Javid suggested vaccines would become mandatory for NHS workers.

On a visit to Moorfields eye hospital in London, he said: “It’s right that we do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable from this virus, that is why we have already insisted that those staff that work in care homes get vaccinated and I think people know why that’s so important.”

Pressed on whether healthcare workers who refused to take the jab risked losing their jobs, Mr Javid said: “I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the consultation; it’s important this is done properly and we want to listen to what people have got to say.

“But patient safety will always be a priority.”

Prof Gilbert told The Telegraph that only some vulnerable groups would need boosters but immunity was "lasting well" in the majority of cases.

"We need to get vaccines to countries where few of the population have been vaccinated so far,” she said.

The UK vaccine advisory body is expected to give its final advice on boosters soon.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has already said a third dose should be offered to Britons who have a severely weakened immune system.

This would mean about half a million people in the UK would be eligible.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:35 AM