Sajid Javid told the BBC there was not a "single trigger" for the government moving to its "Plan B" measures. But he said how the NHS was coping was the number one issue to watch. Government scientists have warned that there could be a large jump in Covid hospital admissions if restrictions are not tightened soon. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said its modelling suggested hospitalisations could reach 2,000 to 7,000 per day next month. Currently there is an average of just over 750 Covid admissions per day in England. The scientists said a "relatively light set of measures" could keep case numbers down if they were brought in early enough.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to avoid the need for additional restrictions by getting more people vaccinated. As he announced his winter plan for tackling Covid in England on Tuesday, he said some measures would be kept in reserve for if the NHS faced unsustainable pressure - including vaccine passports, mandatory face masks and advising people to work from home. Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast: "We don't want to get to a position ever again where there's unsustainable pressure on the NHS so it's not able to see people in the usual way when it needs to, particularly emergency patients. "So in my mind that is the number one issue that we need to always, always keep an eye on." The health secretary said factors would include hospital admission numbers, pressures on A&E and staffing levels. Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Javid was pressed on why the government was not acting early to prevent a rise in hospital admissions. He said the UK now had "much better defences" than it did a year ago, including vaccines, new treatments and an improved testing and surveillance system.