NOW we know what Boris Johnson meant when in July he told us that the UK had to “learn to live” with coronavirus.

It means we should tolerate more than one million people becoming infected every month and 1,000 deaths every week.

At his first Downing St press conference, Sajid Javid, England’s Health Secretary, blithely suggested the infection rate could hit 100,000 a day; that’s three million cases a month.

He also claimed the number of deaths remained “mercifully low”. I have to admit, I don’t regard 1,000 deaths a week as “mercifully low”.

This shows how some people have become inured to the scale of Covid’s deadly grip.

UK deaths to the disease have now topped 139,000; the highest in Europe and equivalent to the population of North Ayrshire.

The latest UK-wide figures showed the 50,000 landmark of daily cases has been reached, 52,009, with another 115 deaths. In Scotland, the respective numbers were 2,355 and 32, the latter pushing the nation’s overall death-toll to over 9,000.

UK hospital admissions are approaching 1,000 a day, up 10% week-on-week.

This week, Morocco announced a ban on flights to and from Britain due to our rising coronavirus rates. It’s not hard to see why.

The latest figures show the North African nation’s weekly rate of Covid cases on October 14 was 10 per 100,000 people; the UK’s current rate is 446.

Political pressure is now building on Boris.

First up was the NHS Confederation, which speaks for health bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, calling for more measures to be introduced south of the border.

Matthew Taylor, its Chief Executive, said the NHS was operating “right at the edge” and warned: “We risk stumbling into a winter crisis,” unless, that is, the UK Government introduces its Plan B – compulsory mask-wearing, working from home and vaccine passports for crowded venues – measures already being adopted to varying degrees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, the doctors’ union, the BMA accused the UK Government of being "wilfully negligent" for not reimposing Covid rules such as mandatory face masks in England.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, its chairman, stressing the mounting pressures on the NHS, criticised the Conservative administration for suggesting life had returned to normal when the UK had more than 10 times the number of cases as France and almost four times as many deaths per million.

"It is, therefore, incredibly concerning [Javid] is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS," he said.

Yet, as ever, Boris is playing to his instincts and declared yesterday “we are sticking with our plan,” ie placing all his hopes on inoculation. Case numbers were “high” but “within the parameters” forecast by scientific advisers.

A media blitz is planned to help the flagging booster programme.

Professor Martin Marshall, head of the Royal College of GPs, said the vaccination situation was “concerning,” pointing out how of the 30 million people eligible for a booster, only 4.7m had had it.

Jeremy Hunt, the ex-Health Secretary, suggested reducing the waiting time for booster jabs by a month to help save Christmas.

Javid admitted Plan B might be adopted if the pressure on hospitals became “unsustainable” but, he said, we were not there yet; there are still 6,000 empty hospital beds.

His emphasis was on persuasion not compulsion, urging people to get vaccinated, yet warning them that insufficient take-up would make more restrictions likely.

The minister talked up mask-wearing in public places, including the Commons, and even hinted of restrictions on indoor gatherings if more action were needed.

However, a string of Tory MPs questioned what one called was their Government’s “obsession” with face-coverings, which risked jeopardising the vaccine rollout.

Indeed, the Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, seen sometimes sporting a Union flag face mask, shot down Javid’s call for Conservative colleagues to wear face-coverings in the crowded chamber, arguing Tory MPs did not need to wear them at Westminster because, with their “convivial, fraternal spirit,” they knew each other well.

And yet the scientists tell us wearing masks helps reduce the spread of infection; that the more infections there are, the more chance a new variant will emerge, which is vaccine-resistant ie it would undo all the hard work we have done thus far in combating the virus.

Remarkably, it seems UK ministers are not demanding the advice of the boffins much these days. Consequently, the SAGE group is now only meeting once a month.

Indeed, during exchanges in the Lords when Lord Kamall, the Health Minister, was asked by a Tory colleague if the Government was happy with its scientific advice on the pandemic, he replied, to derisory laughter: “Can I write to him on that?”

Only this week, we were informed of a Delta Plus variant. Javid said at present there was no evidence it was more infectious but noted there could be such a strain further down the line.

All of which surely points to England like Scotland erring on the side of caution and introducing compulsory mask-wearing. It seems folly not to.

In January, Sir Patrick Vallance, Whitehall’s top scientific adviser, admitted "waiting and watching simply doesn't work".

He stressed: “The lesson is: go earlier than you think you want to; go harder than you think you want to and go a bit broader than you think you want to in terms of applying the restrictions."

And yet we’re experiencing déjà vu. Boris is once more placing hope over experience. Learning to live with Covid feels more and more like learning to ignore it.

Not surprisingly, for many as another winter approaches there is yet again a sense of foreboding.