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Health officials have called on the government to activate its ‘plan B’ for coronavirus restrictions in England to avert a winter crisis in the NHS and to avoid undermining efforts to tackle the backlog of hospital treatments.

Call for ministers to implement Covid-19 emergency plans, including compulsory mask wear, vaccine passports and work-from-home orders, follows increased number of cases, hospital pressure and Covid-19 mortality figures.

The daily Covid-19 death toll across the UK rose to 223 on Tuesday, the highest since early March, while cases topped 40,000 a day over the past week. Daily hospital admissions are approaching 1,000 for the first time in more than a month.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organizations in the health sector, said in a statement: “It is time for the government to enact plan B of its strategy without delay because without preventive action we risk fall into a winter crisis.

“The government should not wait for Covid-19 infections to explode and NHS pressures to be very high before the panic alarm sounds,” he said, adding that the health service “is on its way. was preparing for what could be the most difficult winter on record. ”.

England’s waiting list for elective operations rose to 5.72 million patients in August, the highest level since records began in 2007, according to official NHS data.

Taylor also called on ministers to define a “plan C” in case current contingency plans are “insufficient”.

However, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed the need to immediately implement contingency plans, saying ministers “don’t feel it’s time for Plan B right now.”

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