The British government has ruled out an immediate move to its coronavirus Plan B, as an expert advising on vaccinations warned that the vaccination programme will not be enough to bring current infection rates in England under control.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted pleas from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising number of cases, said vaccines will get England through the winter and out of the pandemic.

Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), warned against complacency in what he said is a "worsening" situation.

He said people need to be testing themselves, wearing masks and avoiding crowds in enclosed spaces in order to prevent "a real meltdown".

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that new cases could reach 100,000 a day, but Downing Street has insisted there is still spare capacity in the NHS and that Plan B will only be activated if it comes under "significant pressure".

Plan B includes working-from-home guidance and the mandatory use of face masks.

Asked if it is time to bring in Plan B to tackle Covid, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said "at the moment the data does not suggest that we should be immediately moving to Plan B".

Rishi Sunak

He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "Well, the prime minister actually just said that we're looking at the data all the time, as you would expect us to.

"We're monitoring everything, but at the moment the data does not suggest that we should be immediately moving to Plan B, but of course we will keep an eye on that and the plans are ready."

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said Plan A is "working" and "where we need to be".

Prof Finn said that while vaccines are very effective at stopping people from getting seriously ill, they are not so effective at stopping infections altogether or stopping the virus from spreading.

"They do have an effect on that, but they're not by themselves going to be enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control," he said.

"And we do need to see people continuing to make efforts to avoid contact, to avoid transmission, and to do other things as well as get vaccinated if we're going to stop this rise from going up further," he told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News.

Prof Finn added: "I would like to re-emphasise the fact that the vaccine programme by itself, in the current situation, even if things go optimally, is not, in my opinion, enough to bring things under control.

"We do need to have people using lateral flow tests, avoiding contact with large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, using masks, all of those things now need to happen if we're going to stop this rise and get things under control soon enough to stop a real meltdown in the middle of the winter."

His comments came after another prominent adviser to the government on Covid-19 said he is "very fearful" there will be another "lockdown Christmas" as he urged the public to do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said case numbers and death rates are currently "unacceptable".

He said measures such as working from home and mask-wearing are "so important" as part of efforts to control the spread of Covid.

Wuhan Marathon postponed after China Covid-19 surge

Residents queue up for Covid tests at a temporary site in Zhangye as cases rise across China
Residents queue up for Covid tests at a temporary site in Zhangye as cases rise across China

The Wuhan Marathon, which had been due to take place today, has been postponed at short notice as worries increase over a coronavirus resurgence in China ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

China reported 26 new domestic Covid-19 cases today, in an outbreak that has become latest test of the country's zero-tolerance approach with just over 100 days until the start of the games.

Authorities have been racing to contain virus infections via mass testing of residents and targeted lockdowns.

But with the rise in cases, organisers of the Wuhan Marathon said in a statement that they would postpone the event in the central Chinese city "to prevent the risk of epidemic spread".

The event was expected to have 26,000 participants, taking part in races including a full marathon and half marathon, in the city where coronavirus was first identified towards the end of 2019, state media reported.

The organising committee said it would refund the registration fees of contestants who successfully signed up.

China has wrestled down the number of infections to a trickle by deploying aggressive, mass testing and keeping its borders extremely tight.

Workers in PPE check the travel history of arriving travelers at a railway station in Shanghai

It remains unclear if next Sunday's 40th edition of the Beijing marathon would go ahead as planned. Organisers did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP.

On Wednesday, China will mark 100 days to go before the Winter Olympics, beginning 4 February, with organisers admitting earlier this month they "face great pressure" because of Covid-19.

The games could be the most restricted mass sporting event since the pandemic began, with no international spectators allowed and a vaccine mandate for anyone entering a strictly enforced "bubble".

Athletes must be vaccinated or face 21-day quarantine upon entry to China.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics, Beijing has started to offer residents booster jabs for the coronavirus.

The latest outbreak was linked to an elderly couple who were in a group of several tourists.

They started in Shanghai before flying to Xi'an, Gansu province and Inner Mongolia.

Covid-19 cases recorded in eastern Europe hit 20 million

Simferopol airport
Passengers arriving at Simferopol International Airport in Crimea today

The number of coronavirus infections recorded so far in eastern Europe surpassed 20 million today, according to a Reuters tally, as the region grapples with its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and inoculation efforts lag.

Countries in the region have the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than half of the population having received a single dose.

Hungary tops the region's vaccination rates with 62% of its population having gotten at least one shot, whereas Ukraine has given just 19% of its residents a single dose, according to Our World in Data.

New infections in the region have steadily risen and now average over 83,700 new cases per day, the highest level since November last year, Reuters data through Friday showed.

Although it has just 4% of the world's population, eastern Europe accounts for roughly 20% of all new cases reported globally.

According to a Reuters analysis, three of the top five countries reporting the most deaths in the world are in eastern Europe - Russia, Ukraine and Romania.

More social gathering indoors after the lifting of restrictions just as winter sets in is driving a rise in Covid-19 infections in many countries across Europe, the World Health Organization's emergency director Mike Ryan said on Thursday.

Moscow Covid
Workers from Russia's Emergencies Ministry disinfect Moscow's Belorussky railway station

As the wave of infections intensifies, many people in eastern Europe are torn between defiance and regret over not getting vaccinated.

Hundreds have protested in Sofia and other cities against mandatory certificates that came into force on Thursday, limiting access to many indoor public spaces to those who have been vaccinated.

A European Commission poll, the Eurobarometer, has shown that at least one person in three in most countries in the European Union's east does not trust the healthcare system, compared to a bloc average of 18%.

More than 40% of all new cases reported in eastern Europe were in Russia, with 120 people testing positive every five minutes, according to a Reuters analysis.

The country's healthcare system is operating under great strain, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday.

On Friday, the nation reported record Covid fatalities for the fourth straight day. So far, Russia has vaccinated about 36% of its population with one vaccine shot.