People are being urged to get their booster jab to “give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that getting vaccinated was the key to a normal Christmas as the Government set a new target to offer all adults a third dose by the end of January.
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that ministers did not want people to cancel their Christmas parties and nativity plays.
And he insisted that another full lockdown was “extremely unlikely” – although he ruled nothing out.
The Government is “throwing everything” at the booster programme, the PM said, as the UK braces for the potential impact of the worrying new Omicron variant.
Eight new cases of the new variant have been identified in England, taking the total in the UK to 22.
MPs overwhelmingly backed new rules making masks mandatory in many indoor spaces, including shops and on public transport.
International arrivals now have to take a PCR test and isolate until they get a negative result – even if they are double jabbed.
Any contacts of confirmed Omicron cases will have to isolate at home for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.
But the booster programme is the key plank of the Government’s strategy to curb the potential threat of the new variant.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now recommended extending the booster rollout to the under-40s – with the minimum gap between second and third doses slashed to three months.
Booster jabs have been offered to the most vulnerable first and priority will be done by age, moving down in five-year bands as done previously.
Some 18 million boosters have been delivered across the UK already but roughly 28.4 million still need a third dose to meet Boris Johnson‘s new target of boosting all eligible adults by the end of January.
Mr Javid told the press conference: “What we’re seeing recently has brought back memories of the strain of the last winter.
“But although we can’t say with certainty what lies ahead, we have one huge advantage that we didn’t have back then – our vaccination programme, which has already done so much to keep this virus at bay.
“But these defences will only keep us safe if we use them. This is a national mission and we all have a role to play.
“If we want to give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones, the best thing we can all do is step up, roll up our sleeves, and get protected when the time comes.”
Mr Johnson said the Government does not want people to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays.
“We don’t want people to cancel such events,” he said.
“We think that overwhelmingly the best thing for kids is to be in school, as I’ve said many times throughout this pandemic.
“What we are doing is trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach to the particular risk that seems to be posed by Omicron, or certainly is posed by Omicron, focused in particular on measures at the borders.
“And we think that’s the right way to go for the time being, until we know more and until we can get more boosters, as we’ve been saying, into people’s arms.”
The PM said he thought it “extremely unlikely” that another lockdown would required.
But he added: “We haven’t ruled out anything, I’ve got to tell you.”Internet Explorer Channel Network