'We Expect Cases To Rise' - Sajid Javid Warns As Booster Scheme Expanded

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Sajid Javid warned “we expect cases to rise” as he extended the booster jab scheme in a bid to tackle the omicron variant.

The health secretary told MPs he expects cases to increase in “coming days” as he confirmed the government is dramatically ramping up the vaccination programme.

Booster jabs are set to be extended to 18 to 39-year-olds with the waiting time between second and third doses halved to three months.

Javid told the Commons: “The new variant has also been spreading across the world. Confirmed cases have been reported in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal.

“In this race between the vaccines and the virus, the new variant may have given the virus extra legs.”

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It comes after two further cases of the variant were identified in England, bringing the total to five. A further six have been identified in Scotland.

Javid failed to rule out any future lockdown, but insisted putting the “booster programme on steroids” is the main form of defence against Covid.

In the Commons, Conservative MP Richard Drax said Covid is “not going away” before adding: “It’s here for the rest of our lives.

“The country is learning to live with this disease, it is the only way forward.

“Can he please reassure me, the House and the country that he will never, ever go back to locking this country down?”

Javid replied: “No-one wants to see those kinds of measures, but (Mr Drax) I’m sure will agree with me that, first let me agree with him that Covid is with us to stay and we need to learn to live with it, and the best way I think we can do that is with the primary form of defence that we’ve got, which is our vaccination programme.

“And I hope he agrees with me that we’re absolutely right to basically put the booster programme on steroids because that will really help us.”

Javid said they want to go “further and faster” in fighting the virus and it comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation published fresh advice.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the booster campaign was “as urgent as it could possibly be” in order to prepare defences against omicron.

“We have a highly-vaccinated population but not yet as fully a boosted population as we would like, there are many people still over the age of 50 who have not come forward for a booster and they are at risk from a drifted variant without that booster,” he told a press conference.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the JCVI, said: “If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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