The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, so Christmas may be difficult, England's deputy chief medical officer cautioned, encouraging people to exercise caution and seek booster vaccines. On Tuesday, the UK reported 293 deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily total since March, and there have been roughly 40,000 new cases per day on average in recent weeks.
In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased restrictions in England, and he has stated that instead of enforcing masks or lockdowns, he expects to deal with COVID this winter by relying on vaccinations.
"Too many people believe the pandemic has ended. Personally, I believe that the winter will be difficult, and that it is not yet over" Jonathan Van-Tam said, adding that the severity of the winter would be determined by behaviour and the uptake of booster shots.
"Christmas, and indeed the entire darker winter months, have the potential to be problematic."
As he eased restrictions, Johnson highlighted Britain's success in the first vaccination push, but a slower distribution of boosters meant that protection may be waning for many vulnerable people.
According to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), taking action now may avoid the need for stricter measures later.
Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar said he had stepped aside from SAGE to focus on his work at the health charity, but that the situation remained concerning. "The Covid-19 crisis is far from over," he said.
"The high levels of transmission seen in the UK remain alarming, but I stood down as a SAGE participant knowing that ministers had received the majority of the critical science advice needed throughout the winter months."