Sajid Javid warns there's 'real risk' of a vaccine-beating variant as he defends keeping Covid powers

SAJID JAVID today refused to rule out future lockdowns as he warned of the risk of a vaccine-beating variant.

The new Health Secretary defended ministers keeping back some powers after tearing up the majority of lockdown restrictions on July 19.

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Boris Johnson last night announced he would sweep away all legal restrictions on social distancing, masks and gatherings on Freedom Day.

Ministers are stripping back lockdown to the bare bones of requiring people who test positive or are contacted by the NHS to isolate.

But he stressed we're not out of the woods yet and urged people to "exercise judgement" and follow cautious Government guidance.

Mr Javid today echoed his boss and told people to "remain vigilant" – and hinted restrictions could return to tackle any alarming mutation.

In key developments

  • The Health Sec warned cases could hit 100,000 a day this summer
  • Mr Javid prepared to reveal plans for double-jabbed Brits to avoid quarantine
  • A Tory MP broke ranks by refusing to wear her mask after July 19
  • The PM last night lit a bonfire of Covid restrictions on Freedom Day

Asked if legal restrictions may return, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I hope not, and that's certainly not in our plan.

"But the one thing that no-one can say for certain anywhere in the world is the future progression of the virus itself.

"We have seen how there has been variants already, and very damaging variants in terms of how they can infect people, but there may be, and no-one knows this, there isn't yet, but there may be a variant that comes out in the future that is vaccine-resistant.

"Which means by definition that this wall of defence that we have built is no longer going to be there for us.

"So we have to, of course, remain vigilant, and that is also why we continue with a number of defences in law, so, for example, the control around our borders and need to isolate from certain countries."

Scientists are confident that vaccines will continue to beat back emerging strains of coronavirus.

Recent studies showed it staved off serious illness from the super-infectious Delta variant – the Pfizer jab is 96 per cent effective, and the AstraZeneca vaccine 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

Yesterday the PM outlined a five-point plan to learn to live with Covid in the future by retaining some powers.

His blueprint will see ministers double down on the vaccine rollout, encourage people to make smart choices, toughen border controls, maintain quarantine and keep a close eye on the data.

Striking a somber tone of caution the PM did not hail his roadmap as "irreversible" as he has done previously.

Former Health Sec Jeremy Hunt today urged caution around "using the language of irreversibility".

He told BBC Radio 4: "At the moment, the projections are that the deaths from Covid will actually be less than some of our worst years for flu.

"When you have that kind of change, I think it's reasonable to change the social contract to one of co-operation, rather than compulsion.

"But I think we have got to be careful about using the language of irreversibility, because we still have 350,000 new infections every day across the world, there is still room for the vaccine-busting variants that we are all worried about.

"So we have to be on our guard and recognise that things may sadly yet change."

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