By Connor Steel
PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has used an impassioned televised address this evening (Sunday) in hope of encouraging eligible adults to receive their third ‘booster’ Covid-19 vaccine, updating the country on the current situation of the pandemic as Omicron cases rise and unveiling his new plan to help avoid further restrictions to tackle a forecast ‘tidal wave’ of infections over the coming weeks
In a pre-recorded statement to the nation released at 8pm and shown across multiple channels, Mr Johnson declared an ‘Omicron emergency’ and confirmed that the UK Covid-19 Alert level had risen from 3 to four earlier today. This means that there is a high or rising level of transmission and is the second highest tier, with level five showing material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.
This change comes as another 1,239 new cases of the Omicron variant were announced in the UK on Sunday, bringing the total number of this infection to over three thousand in just seventeen days. It is however believed that the real number is far higher than reported within the community, hence a real push from Mr Johnson in this prime time speech on the second anniversary of his election wins.
The key message from the PM was that ‘two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need’, suggesting that scientists cannot say that Omicron is less severe than past variants. In a hopeful tone he further added ‘scientists are confident that with a third vaccine dose, a booster dose, we can all bring our level of protection back up’, before announcing an ambitious plan.
Booster jabs will be offered to everybody over 18 years old in England from Wednesday with a target of everybody being ‘fully’ vaccinated by December 31, as long as it has been three months since their second dose. This brings the target date forward from the end of January, with those wanting first and second injections always welcomed across Britain with 3.86 million remaining un-jabbed.
To help reach this target with just 19 days left, it was announced that forty-two planning teams will be deployed across every region alongside the further creation of vaccine units in England. Opening hours of clinics and sites will be extended with more appointments available, whilst support is given to the devolved administrations through the training of volunteer vaccinators and required supplies.
But Mr Johnson said in order to reach the new jab target, certain other medical appointments will need to be postponed to the New Year as a result. Some UK GPs are already allowed to postpone routine health checks to make space for vaccinations. The PM did apologise for this inconvenience and thanked those affected, but further said that this challenge may need all available resources.
In the final moments of this seven minute statement Mr Johnson unveiled his new three word slogan for his campaign, GET BOOSTED NOW; with Government issued marketing materials made available shortly afterwards. This hashtag was immediately trending on social media sites Twitter and Facebook, with millions responding to their leader’s passionate plea to avoid more restrictions.
Neither Fareham’s Suella Braverman or Gosport’s Caroline Dinenage have posted anything online in support of their leader (at the time of writing), although both are likely to issue their own comments on Monday. Current figures show that 47% of Fareham residents have received a booster jab, their neighbouring borough of Gosport slightly behind with four out of ten people getting their third dose according to the BBC statistic tracker.
In early reaction, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reiterated Mr Johnson’s call to “get boosted” – adding: “So much has been asked of the British people, and time and again you have risen to the challenge. So let’s keep our foot on the pedal and get Britain boosted to protect our families, friends and NHS.”
This updated plea comes just days after the PM announced an introduction of Plan B restrictions on Wednesday, which includes working at home from Monday alongside face mask mandates for most indoor settings and the need for Covid-19 passports to access large gatherings such as sports or theatre events. However this is subject to a vote in the House of Commons that is expected to comfortably pass despite a predicted rebellion from up to seventy Tory MPs.
More information on how to book booster jabs and the current guidance can be seen on the Government website or via the Covid-19 application on mobile phones.
PICTURED BY PAUL EDWARDS: Boris Johnson receives his booster jab last month