The Health Secretary said the nation is approaching almost 1,000 Covid hospital admissions per day, with over 100 deaths a day.
He said the Government’s primary line of defence will include encouraging those who have yet to receive a Covid jab to come forward and get one, with five million in the UK still yet to receive a dose.
The rollout of vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds will also be stepped up, with plans in place to make the delivery of these easier.
The Government also plans to encourage uptake of the Covid vaccine booster for those who are eligible to receive one.
‘We may soon have a new defence in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs’
The Health Secretary also mentioned the two new antivirals which the Government has signed a deal for.
Antivirals are used to either treat people infected with a virus or to protect exposed individuals from becoming infected.
Thousands of courses of the antivirals have been secured by the Government to be ready for use this winter, subject to approval by the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The treatments, from pharmaceutical companies Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), and Pfizer, would be aimed at those most at risk from the virus, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir, made by MSD, have been secured, as well as 250,000 courses of Pfizer’s PF-07321332/ritonavir.
DHSC said Molnupiravir has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospital admission or death for at-risk adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 by 50%, with Pfizer’s antiviral currently at the beginning of its phase three trials.
It is understood that, if approved, Molnupiravir could be available by the middle of November, and Pfizer’s treatment by the middle of January 2022.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am delighted to confirm we may soon have a new defence in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs that we have secured.
“Our work is far from done though – and we’ll continue our tireless work to secure more innovative treatments so we can protect as many people as possible from the virus, its variants and future diseases.”