Jab booking chaos saw 4.4M try to book slot but just 545,000 get one

Jab booking chaos saw 4.4M try to book slot but just 545,000 get one

December 14, 2021

Jab booking chaos saw 4.4MILLION try to book a slot but just 545,000 get one – as furious GPs say they are ALREADY out of vaccines and have been given until just 9AM TODAY to order entire stock to meet Boris’s December ‘booster or bust’ 31 deadline

  • Boris Johnson appealed for army of volunteers to get Covid booster jabs to every adult in England by January
  • The PM’s ambitious project to offer a third dose by New Year’s Eve descended into chaos on its first day 
  • More than 1million people have either had their booster or booked a third dose since Sunday’s TV address
  • Even at the height of NHS’s vaccine drive in March, the service never managed more than 850,000 jabs a day
  • NHS chiefs believe it is feasible to reach 5million jabs a week, but have resisted giving firm commitments 

Britain’s boosting booking chaos yesterday saw more than 4.4million people visit the NHS website that offered appointments.

But only 545,000 bookings were made by 8pm last night, according to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard.

NHS leaders last night warned that Boris Johnson’s Covid booster rollout is setting up the health service for ‘failure’ and raised questions about the possibility of success.

The Prime Minister pledged on Sunday night to offer all eligible adults in Britain a booster jab by the end of the year.

That would involve more than a million people every day getting jabbed for the next two weeks but a senior NHS source broke ranks tonight to warn even hitting that daily number by Christmas would be tough, let alone maintaining the level through December. 

Mr Johnson last night issued a new rallying cry for tens of thousands of people to volunteer to help the rollout hit its ‘ambitious’ targets. 

More than a million people have either had their booster or booked a third dose in the 24 hours since Mr Johnson made a TV appeal to head off a ‘tidal wave’ of cases of the so-called ‘Omicron’ variant. 

Even at the height of the NHS’s vaccine drive in March, the health service never managed more than 850,000 jabs a day.

And yesterday, Mr Johnson’s plans descended into chaos on the first day, with the central booking website repeatedly crashing as it failed to cope with the surge in demand and waits of five hours reported at some vaccination clinics.

There were 397,532 boosters reported yesterday and the rolling average now stands at 425,869 – about half the record daily total of 844,285 in March. It means 18million people in England are yet to have a third jab.

NHS chiefs believe it is feasible to reach 5million jabs a week, but have resisted giving firm commitments.

Furious GPs are warning they are already out of vaccine. Pictured above is the queue for the booster walk-in centre at St Thomas’ hospital, London, this morning. Yesterday the line was up to five hours long, but the hospital said everyone who turned up would be able to get a booster jab

Boris Johnson (pictured returning from his morning run today) has set a target of delivering one million Covid booster jabs a day. Senior NHS sources broke ranks last night to warn hitting that number by Christmas will be tough

 At the height of the first vaccination drive Britain was delivered a maximum of 840,000 jabs on a single day. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this level needs to be matched ant then exceeded. Pictured above is a graph showing the number of booster jabs delivered per day (green bars) and the target for the rest of December (red bars)

This graph shows how Britain’s vaccination drive is going. There was a lag in September as the booster drive got going, which opposition parties have already slammed saying it has put the country at unnecessary risk

 It comes amid the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant. The above graph shows cumulative cases identified in the UK by each nation. It reveals cases are surging rapidly, and yesterday rose 50 per cent compared to the day before

 The super-mutant strain already makes up around half of cases in London, and is expected to become dominant in the capital by Wednesday. It is also behind an increasing proportion of cases across the rest of the country

A senior NHS source told The Times that the vaccine target would be harder than adapting to Covid in March last year or dealing with January’s peak in admissions, and said ministers ‘have a duty to set realistic expectations so they don’t set up the public services they lead to fail’. They added that there was also ‘a real question of how quickly the required increase can happen’, saying it would take several days even to know what was feasible. 

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and other NHS trusts, told The Guardian: ‘The NHS is already under enormous pressure, and scaling up in this way will be a huge challenge.’

Yesterday there were long queues for jabs and the NHS booking system creaked under surging demand. Up to 57,000 appointments were made an hour – 16 a second.

The NHS is developing plans for a rapid acceleration of the vaccine programme so that 20million people can be jabbed by January. Hundreds of ‘pop-up’ centres will be opened, including at football stadiums. Some sites will operate 24 hours a day, even on Christmas Day, while pharmacies will be asked to provide jabs outside their regular hours of business.

The 15-minute wait required after an injection may be ditched to increase capacity at small venues.

Around 750 members of the Armed Forces were yesterday called in to help with the mission and councils, fire brigades and police have been asked to offer up any staff trained in delivering jabs. The military deployment will include 60 planners and logistics experts working at NHS England, as well as small teams of soldiers helping out across the country.

However, ministers believe they still need tens of thousands of volunteers to staff pop-up centres and other vaccine sites.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m issuing a call for volunteers to join our national mission to get jabs in arms. Many thousands have already given their time but we need you to come forward again, to work alongside our brilliant GPs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to deliver jabs and save lives.’

The booster push follows emerging evidence that a third jab may provide up to 70 per cent protection against infection from Omicron, compared with only negligible protection for those who have had two doses. 

It also comes amid reports that supplies of rapid home testing kits for Covid appeared to run dry yesterday after Sajid Javid advised anyone planning to mix with friends and family indoors over the Christmas holidays to take a lateral flow test beforehand.  

In the latest developments in the pandemic:

  • Sir Keir Starmer announced he is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown as he urged people to ‘stick to the rules’ to help prevent the NHS from being ‘overwhelmed’ by Omicron; 
  • The entire NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March today after the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day;
  • Britain has suffered its first death from Omicron, the Prime Minister revealed on a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington. However, experts are demanding answers about the UK’s first Omicron fatality, such as the individual’s vaccination status, if they were part of group vulnerable to Covid, and if the virus was the leading cause of death; 
  • GPs fumed they found out about the jabbing goal at the same time as the rest of the nation, and NHS bosses warned it would take ‘time’ to get the scaled up programme ‘fully up and running’;
  • Former Cabinet minister David Davis and Labour MPs slammed the Government for failing to ramp up the booster drive in September, and warned the ‘vaccine wall of defence was crumbling’;
  • Sajid Javid said that patients waiting for elective surgery such as hip replacements could see their treatment postponed as the NHS races to roll out a million jabs a day. He promised, however, that critical care for cancer patients would be unaffected;
  • Both Scotland and Wales dangled the possibility of having to impose tougher restrictions as Boris Johnson failed to rule out more measures for England.

People queuing outside the St Thomas vaccination centre in Westminster, London

Boris Johnson last night appealed for an army of volunteers to deliver Covid jabs around the clock

A lengthy queue at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London, just across the Thames, on Monday

More than a million people have either had their booster or booked a third dose in the 24 hours since Mr Johnson made a TV appeal to head off a ‘tidal wave’ of cases of the so-called ‘Omicron’ variant. Pictured, a lengthy queue at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London, just across the Thames, on Monday

A person receives a Covid-19 vaccine inside a vaccination centre at St John’s Church in London

The NHS website crashed yesterday as record numbers rushed to book a booster in the hope of saving their Christmas.

Boris Johnson’s promise to give every adult a third jab by the end of the year triggered a surge in demand that left parts of the UK’s health infrastructure unable to cope. Queues of up to five hours built up at some vaccination centres.

The Government was also forced to suspend temporarily the online availability of home lateral flow kits on the eve of rolling out a new testing regime. From today, all contacts of those who have tested positive for Covid have to take a daily rapid test for a week in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.

The weekend saw a record number of booster bookings on the NHS website, with 749,000 slots snapped up. A further 110,000 slots had been booked by 9am yesterday.

Problems with the site began on Sunday afternoon. The Prime Minister’s later TV address led to a further surge, with many of those trying to book met with a message telling them that they had been placed in a queue. Others were unable to get this far and were instead told the site had ‘technical difficulties’. No10 yesterday suggested ‘further capacity’ would be built into the service in coming days to deal with the increased demand.

The NHS website crashed yesterday as record numbers rushed to book a booster in the hope of saving their Christmas

 

After the NHS last week announced a recruitment drive for 10,000 paid vaccinators, 4,500 people registered their interest and 13,000 came forward as volunteers.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam appealed to the 30,000 people who volunteered in the original jabs rollout to step forward again. There are currently 3,000 vaccine sites staffed by more than 90,000 volunteers.

In a letter to health staff last night, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard acknowledged that some routine appointments would ‘have to be postponed’ to meet the challenge from Mr Johnson.

She added: ‘Some other appointments will need to be postponed to the New Year. If we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions would be even greater.’

Outlining the rollout plans, Miss Pritchard said the NHS would be ‘creating capacity, both by maximising throughput, efficiency and opening times of existing sites to operate 12 hours per day as standard, seven days per week as well as running 24 hours where relevant for the local community, and through opening additional pop-up and new sites’.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has laid down the rule requiring a wait of 15 minutes after receiving a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. The regulator last week rejected a request by ministers to drop the wait.

A Whitehall source said that scrapping it was essential to meeting the jabs target because small sites such as pharmacies and GP surgeries did not have space to allow more patients to wait. They are also pushing the regulator to assess the case for vaccinating the under-12s.

The NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron, which is causing around 200,000 new infections per day, the Health Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December.

He said: ‘It is asking a huge amount of our colleagues in the NHS.

‘And it’s our joint view that we can try to offer adults a chance to get boosted by the end of this month.

‘And that does not mean every single person necessarily can get that booster, it requires them to come forward and to take up this offer as well, as well as everything going right in this huge expansion plan.’

It follows confusion over whether the Government has promised that people can all have a jab in their arm by the December 31 deadline, or whether they will just have an offer of a future vaccine.

It comes as the UK recorded its first death involving Omicron, and 10 people are in hospital with the variant.

Most of these 10 have received two vaccines and range in age from 18 to 85, though there are no details on whether they have underlying conditions.

Mr Javid told the Commons: ‘Until now the highest number of jabs that we’ve delivered in a single day in the UK was over 840,000. We’ll not only need to match that but we will need to beat that every day. But we can and we’ve got a plan to try and do it. We’re opening more vaccination sites including pop-up and mobile sites that’ll be working seven days a week. We are training thousands more volunteer vaccinators, we’re asking GPs and pharmacies to do more and we’re drafting in 42 military planning teams across every region of our country.’

Mr Javid said he acknowledge that ‘our national mission comes with some difficult trade-offs’, meaning some non-urgent appointments and surgery in the NHS may be cancelled.

He added: ‘These are steps that no Health Secretary would wish to take unless they were absolutely necessary, but I am convinced that if we don’t prioritise the booster now the health consequences will be far more grave in the months that lie ahead.’

Little-known minister for jabs gets sidelined

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup was sidelined yesterday as Sajid Javid said he will now be ‘personally running’ the booster programme.

The Health Secretary said he is taking charge of the rollout and will be responsible for its success.

He insisted that Ms Throup is ‘doing a really important job’ but his decision to lead the initiative is likely to prompt questions over her future.

Her predecessor, Nadhim Zahawi, had a much more prominent role. He attended Cabinet and was frequently seen on TV. Miss Throup took over the role in September after Mr Zahawi was promoted to Education Secretary.

Asked who was in charge, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Maggie Throup is the Vaccines Minister. She is doing a really important job.’

Pressed on whether she was in charge of the rollout, Mr Javid said: ‘I am personally running this programme.’

 

Mr Johnson is facing the biggest rebellion of his premiership, with dozens of Tory MPs set to vote against the latest Covid restrictions.

More than 70 backbenchers are threatening to defy the whips and oppose the Government’s Plan B for England, brought in in the face of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. It is reported that up to 10 ministerial aides could resign to vote against the controls.

The measures – including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues – are expected to pass the Commons on Tuesday with the support of Labour, who back tighter controls.

However the scale of the threatened revolt underlines how difficult Mr Johnson’s position has become following a series of largely self-inflicted wounds suffered by the Government in recent weeks.

It could become even more precarious if the Conservatives are defeated in the North Shropshire by-election on Thursday, where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to overturn a Tory majority of almost 23,000 from the last general election.

The Prime Minister faced a wave of public anger after reports that a series of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year at a time when such gatherings were largely banned.

The country’s top civil servant, the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, is currently carrying out an investigation into whether the rules were broken – something Mr Johnson has repeatedly denied.

Within the Conservative Party, it has only served to compound the deep frustration among a large section of backbenchers at the return of new Covid controls.

Many particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties. 

There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices.

Mr Johnson has insisted the measures represent a ‘balanced and proportionate’ response to the emergence of the Omicron variant. 

The health service in England declared a ‘Level 4 National Incident’, which means the NHS centrally will now lead the response to the virus rather than local trusts setting their own course. It will enable vaccine clinics to operate around the clock while hospital trusts will be able to discharge some patients to hotels.

Some scientists have warned that further measures will be required in the coming weeks if the service is not to be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of hospital admissions.

However the anticipated Tory revolt – expected to exceed the previous record of 55 under Mr Johnson’s leadership – could badly damage his political authority if more action is needed. For now, the Prime Minister is hoping a ramped up booster jab campaign – significantly increasing the protection the vaccines provide against Omicron – will be enough to enable the NHS to get through the winter.

He has issued an appeal for ‘tens of thousands’ of volunteer stewards and vaccinators to step forward to help deliver the Government’s ‘national mission’ to get the offer of a top-up jab to every eligible adult in England by the end of the month.

‘We need to increase our jabbing capacity to unprecedented levels,’ he said.

Members of the public queue to receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a coronavirus vaccination centre outside Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in central London

The deployment will include 60 planners and logistics experts working at NHS England, as well as small teams of soldiers helping out across the country

NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services

Pubs and restaurants could be closed under harsh New Year curbs sparking yet more Tory outrage as 79 MPs vow to vote against Boris’s Plan B TODAY 

Hospitality businesses could be shut within weeks under Government plans to halt the spread of the Covid variant as Boris Johnson faces the biggest revolt of his premiership today, with a third of Tory backbenchers preparing to vote against controversial ‘Plan B’ vaccine passports.

Whitehall officials have drawn up proposals to limit the number of people allowed in pubs and restaurants across the country amid mounting concern over the so-called ‘Omicron’ strain, according to The Sun.

The plans could trigger a wave of New Year’s Eve party cancellations and further decimate the industry, with MPs now privately warning that they will torpedo any attempts to reintroduce draconian restrictions such as the ‘Rule of Six’ or a ban on households mixing.

As many as 79 Conservative MPs – equivalent to the Government’s working majority which it won at the 2019 General Election – are ready to rebel against ‘illiberal’ restrictions that would make the NHS Covid pass necessary for entry to larger venues. Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before today’s vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass. 

Downing Street has claimed that hospitality venues could be forced to close without vaccine passports. But critical MPs claim the measures will not work, and several ministerial aides are on ‘resignation watch’.  

Many within the Conservative Party particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties. There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices. 

The Government’s new Covid crackdown – which includes orders to work from home and compulsory facemasks in more settings – is expected to sail through the Commons because Sir Keir Starmer has said the Labour Party will support the measures.

But the Commons mutiny could wipe out Mr Johnson’s majority and eclipse his biggest revolt yet, when 54 Tories voted against the tier system of curbs last December.

MPs yesterday accused the Health Secretary of ‘shifting the goalposts’. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith admitted being ‘concerned about the mixed and heavy messaging coming from the government’, while Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said it was ‘not acceptable to keep governing this country by decree’.

One backbencher told The Guardian: ‘These restrictions are the gateway drug to more serious restrictions down the line. I think we’ll be on Plan X, Y or Z by Christmas.’  

Another said ‘scare stories’ about further curbs beyond Plan B had ‘actually had the opposite effect’ and emboldened the rebels.

Sir Keir Starmer confirmed Labour would support the Government in the Commons vote saying it was their ‘patriotic duty’ to back the additional restrictions.

Under the new measures from Wednesday, NHS Covid passes will be required for entry to indoor venues containing more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

Mr Javid said once all adults have had the chance to get a booster, people will need to have had the third dose if they are to be exempt from the requirement to show a negative test.

Anyone faking a pass could be hit with a £10,000 fine while councils will have the power to shut down businesses if they fail to comply with the rules.

Mr Javid told MPs there are now 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, adding that the UK Health Security Agency estimates that the current number of ‘daily infections are around 200,000’.

He added: ‘While Omicron represents over 20 per cent of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44 per cent in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours.’

Overall, there were a further 54,661 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK as of Monday morning, the Government said.

Mr Javid also urged people to have boosters as a way of protecting children.

Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, asked Mr Javid to ‘make sure schools are kept open in January’.

Mr Javid said: ‘One of the reasons to take the measures we’ve said, especially around expanding the booster programme, is to make sure we can prioritise our children.’

Downing Street has indicated schools will be kept open unless there is an ‘absolute public health emergency’ and warned local authorities against deciding to close early for Christmas as a precautionary measure.

‘There are certainly no plans to put in any restriction on schooling, we know how vital education has been and how detrimental the pandemic has been towards children and young people who, in many cases, have borne the brunt of this,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Earlier, Boris Johnson announced the first UK death with Omicron during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington in west London.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Sadly, yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.

‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’

Mr Johnson repeatedly declined to rule out further coronavirus restrictions ahead of Christmas but stressed the urgency of people getting boosters.

‘Throughout the pandemic I’ve been at great pains to stress to the public that we have to watch where the pandemic is going and we take whatever steps are necessary to protect public health,’ he added.

In England a booster is available to everyone aged 18 or over from this week as long as the second dose was at least three months ago.

Over-30s can already book a booster online and, from Wednesday, this will be extended to over-18s.

Mr Johnson said MPs thinking of rebelling against Plan B measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with Omicron.

Asked about support among his backbenchers ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: ‘I think that what everybody needs to recognise is a couple of things, that Omicron is a very serious risk to public health, and that it’s spreading very fast, and I think there’s no room for complacency.

‘But we have the vaccines, our position remains incomparably better than it was last year.

‘And I hope that people will also understand, colleagues in Westminster, around the country, will also see that the measures we’re putting in place are balanced and proportionate.’

Responding to the fact the Government website said on Monday ‘there are no more home tests available’ when people tried to order lateral flow kits, the Prime Minister said there was a ‘ready supply’ of tests.

The UK Health Security Agency said earlier that ‘due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders’.

It added: ‘Everyone who needs a lateral flow test can collect test kits, either at their local pharmacy, some community sites and some schools and colleges.’

But Labour shadow health minister Wes Streeting described Covid testing as a ‘shambles’.

He told MPs that pharmacies across the country are out of stock, ‘and even here in Parliament there are no home-testing kits available from Portcullis House’.

He said an increase in demand should have been foreseen and said: ‘This is a serious problem.’

Professor Salim Karim said early data from South Africa looks good.

The former chair of the South African ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19 told BBC News: ‘In the past three waves, about two out of every three patients admitted were cases of severe disease, and right now we have only one out of four cases that is severe – a marked difference.

‘So it looks like, at this stage, you know early data and one doesn’t want to over-interpret it, but the signs are certainly looking good.’

However, it is important to note that South Africa has a younger population than the UK so direct comparisons can be tricky. 

Q&A 

 Why is the booster rollout being accelerated?

A third dose of the Covid vaccine has been long planned because the immunity vaccines offer against the virus wanes over time. Originally the booster was on offer to the over-40s, but the rapid spread of the Omicron variant means the programme is being sped up. Online appointments for the over-30s were opened yesterday, and from tomorrow those aged 18 to 29 will able to book.

What’s happened to the bookings website?

Yesterday morning no fewer than 110,000 people visited the website before 9am to secure a booster jab. This led to the website crashing, and some people were left in a queue for hours. NHS Digital was forced to bring in extra capacity to allow more people to book. A spokesman said: ‘The vaccine booking service is facing extremely high demand and is operating a queuing system to manage numbers. We would advise people currently unable to book to try again later today or tomorrow.’

What’s the situation at walk-in centres?

Thousands have turned up at walk-in vaccine centres up and down the country. Long queues were seen outside many as people tried to get their boosters as soon as possible. Hundreds waited outside the centre in Hungerford, Berkshire, and many had to wait more than four hours to be seen. Some people reported being turned away in parts of the country, due to the huge demand.

When will the third doses be completed?

Boris Johnson announced a new target allowing all adults to get a jab by the end of the year. However NHS England and the Department of Health say the target is that everyone should be offered the chance to book a jab by then – meaning some people may not receive them until January. But Downing Street insist the Prime Minister meant what he said. The target will mean a million jabs will have to be given every day – many more than the previous daily record of around 850,000.

What does it mean for vaccine passports?

People who want to go to a nightclub or another large venue have been told to show the NHS Covid pass to gain entry. Yesterday Sajid Javid said the passports would soon require three jabs to gain entry.

 

Pubs and restaurants could be closed under harsh New Year curbs sparking yet more Tory outrage as 79 MPs vow to vote against Boris’s Plan B TODAY

Hospitality businesses could be shut within weeks under Government plans to halt the spread of the Covid variant as Boris Johnson faces the biggest revolt of his premiership today, with a third of Tory backbenchers preparing to vote against controversial ‘Plan B’ vaccine passports.

Whitehall officials have drawn up proposals to limit the number of people allowed in pubs and restaurants across the country amid mounting concern over the so-called ‘Omicron’ strain, according to The Sun.

The plans could trigger a wave of New Year’s Eve party cancellations and further decimate the industry, with MPs now privately warning that they will torpedo any attempts to reintroduce draconian restrictions such as the ‘Rule of Six’ or a ban on households mixing.

As many as 79 Conservative MPs – equivalent to the Government’s working majority which it won at the 2019 General Election – are ready to rebel against ‘illiberal’ restrictions that would make the NHS Covid pass necessary for entry to larger venues. Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before today’s vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass. 

Downing Street has claimed that hospitality venues could be forced to close without vaccine passports. But critical MPs claim the measures will not work, and several ministerial aides are on ‘resignation watch’.  

Many within the Conservative Party particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties. There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices. 


Left, Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. Right, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid outside 10 Downing Street

Anti-vaxx protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday

The Government’s new Covid crackdown – which includes orders to work from home and compulsory facemasks in more settings – is expected to sail through the Commons because Sir Keir Starmer has said the Labour Party will support the measures.

But the Commons mutiny could wipe out Mr Johnson’s majority and eclipse his biggest revolt yet, when 54 Tories voted against the tier system of curbs last December.

MPs yesterday accused the Health Secretary of ‘shifting the goalposts’. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith admitted being ‘concerned about the mixed and heavy messaging coming from the government’, while Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said it was ‘not acceptable to keep governing this country by decree’.

One backbencher told The Guardian: ‘These restrictions are the gateway drug to more serious restrictions down the line. I think we’ll be on Plan X, Y or Z by Christmas.’  

Another said ‘scare stories’ about further curbs beyond Plan B had ‘actually had the opposite effect’ and emboldened the rebels.

Tory whips launched a desperate 11th hour operation on Monday to curb the revolt, telling junior members of the Government that they would have to quit if they voted against Covid vaccine passports. Ministers and whips also shared internal polling commissioned by the Cabinet Office which showed that the public favours ‘Plan B’ restrictions and a cautious approach to the so-called ‘Omicron’ variant, The Telegraph reported.

Mr Johnson repeatedly declined to rule out further restrictions ahead of Christmas but stressed the urgency of people getting boosters. He also said MPs thinking of rebelling against Plan B measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with Omicron.

Will we need three jabs to have ‘fully vaccinated’ status by JANUARY? Javid says booster shots will be needed for passes once Brits have had a ‘reasonable chance’ to get them – as new laws reveal £10,000 fine for faking proof to get into events

People may need three jabs to use controversial Covid passports for entry to large venues by January, the Health Secretary warned last night. 

Sajid Javid told the Commons that people will only be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ once they have had their booster, and that three doses will be required for vaccine passports once all eligible adults in England have had ‘a reasonable chance’ to get the next jab. 

But he refused to clarify when these changes would come into force, as confusion mounts over whether the Prime Minister’s promise in Sunday’s TV address means everybody will have had their booster by December 31 or will just be offered a third dose by then.  

In a massively ambitious move, Boris Johnson brought forward the deadline to offer all over-18s a third jab by New Year’s Day as he warned the country: ‘There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.’ 

But concerns about whether the Government could even hit the goal were raised almost immediately after Mr Johnson’s 8pm televised announcement last night. Even at the height of the NHS’s vaccine drive in March, the health service never managed more than 850,000 jabs a day. 

Britons faced a five-hour queue for booster shots at St Thomas’ hospital in Westminster on Monday, after officials reportedly assigned only four staff members to rolling out the jabs. The hospital said everyone in the queue would get a vaccine.

There were reports of queues at vaccination centres dotted across the country, including in Kidlington, Belfast, Manchester and parts of London. Younger people were also turned away in the confusion as they tried to get booster jabs. Staff at the Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium allowed those in their 20s in while others were declined.

Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December

People queue for Covid-19 vaccines and booster inoculations at the Elland Road Vaccination Centre in Leeds

From 6am on Wednesday, people will need to show proof of two jabs or a negative lateral flow test in order to enter nightclubs and large venues. Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before tomorrow’s vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass or test result. 

Mr Javid’s extraordinary statement comes amid murmurings of a large Tory rebellion to Boris Johnson’s so-called ‘Plan B’ restrictions, which include the passports as well as orders to work from home and compulsory facemasks for further public spaces. The Conservative backbenchers are particularly opposed to the use of Covid passes and believe the restrictions are unjustified. 

The measures are expected to be approved with Labour’s support, but the revolt would be the biggest of Mr Johnson’s premiership so far. Tory whips on Monday launched a desperate operation to curb the rebellion amid reports around 80 MPs could vote against the restrictions.

In the past week, the Government has been accused of throwing rule-breaking Christmas parties at Downing Street last year, while gatherings across the country were criminalised.  

On Monday, Mr Johnson said MPs thinking of rebelling against the measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with the Omicron variant. 

Two Covid jabs should still slash risk of dying from Omicron or being hospitalised by 84% even if they offer virtually zero protection against symptoms, SAGE estimates

Two Covid jabs should still slash the risk of dying from Omicron by up to 84 per cent but a booster is twice as good at preventing someone from falling ill, according to official estimates. 

SAGE modelling published over the weekend worked off the assumption that two Pfizer doses give 83.7 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death from the highly-evolved strain. 

A two-dose course of AstraZeneca’s vaccine was estimated to reduce the risk of severe disease from Omicron by 77.1 per cent. However, both vaccine brands were assumed to wane within three to six months.

At that point, the Government’s scientific advisers believe protection from two AstraZeneca jabs could be as low as 61.3 per cent and 67.6 per cent for Pfizer.

A booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was estimated to top-up immunity to over 93 per cent, regardless of which jab someone was originally given — providing a similar level of protection as two doses did against Delta. 

The estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies. The model warned that the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant may lead to more hospitalisations than England’s second wave last January, when up to 4,000 infected patients were being admitted to NHS facilities every day.

Scientists have been racing to work out how effective existing vaccines will perform on the Omicron strain since it was first discovered on November 24. There was huge concern that it would be unrecognisable to jabs because of the 30-plus mutations on its spike protein. 

Current jabs were designed to target the original virus that emerged in Wuhan. But because the variant is so new, experts are still relying on lab experiments which may not reflect how the variant will behave in the real world.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he expects two jabs to protect against severe illness even better. He said hospital data in South Africa’s Omicron ground zero suggested T cells, which are more difficult to measure, were playing a crucial role in immunity.

However, Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, argued the drop in efficacy of two jabs was still ‘concerning’. He told MailOnline: ‘Nobody ever expected Omicron to wipe out vaccine efficacy it was just a drop that was expected — and that in itself can do enough damage.’ 

Even at 84 per cent protection from severe illness, that leaves 16 per cent vulnerable to being hospitalised or killed by Omicron. That’s up to three times as many as with Delta.  

These vaccine effectiveness estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies, rather than real-world data. It shows ‘vaccine effectiveness’ on symptomatic disease and hospitalisations/deaths from Omicron. The dots represent the number of people out of a group of 100 who are vulnerable to Covid. For example the study found boosters offered 93 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death. In a group of 100 booster vaccinated people, you would expect seven to require hospital care

The UK Covid alert level was raised from level 3 to level 4 after the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant 

The LSHTM paper estimated that two doses of AstraZeneca’s jab only gives 36.1 per cent protection from getting symptomatic Omicron after six months, and Pfizer’s just 46.7 per cent. 

Early real-world data from the UK’s first 500 Omicron cases suggests that AstraZeneca’s vaccine provides even less protection against mild illness. 

By comparison, the LSHTM model assumed that a booster Pfizer jab slashes the risk of symptomatic infection by 80.3 per cent. 

The team’s vaccine effectiveness estimates were based on neutralising antibody studies which test Omicron against the blood of vaccinated people.

While antibodies are a good indicator of immunity, they are just one part of a more complex immune response to the virus that also involves T and B cells. 

Professor Hunter told MailOnline that there were ‘grounds for optimism’ based on the paper’s estimates.

He said: ‘As well as antibodies we’ve got T cells, and there is some evidence T cell immunity is better conserved between old variants and Omicron than antibodies.

‘The big issue is here is all of their results are estimates based on neutralising antibodies and while that is probably accurate for infection and symptomatic disease, it’s a bit different when looking at severe disease.

Boris confirms first Omicron death and urges nation to ‘set aside idea’ variant is milder 

At least one Briton has died from the Omicron Covid variant, Boris Johnson confirmed today as crucial lateral flow tests ran out and his pledge to dish out a million boosters per day to beat the super-mutant variant descended into chaos.

The Prime Minister also said the variant was now leading to hospitalisations, and that the ‘best thing’ people could do was get a booster. Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about Omicron, despite reports in South Africa that it is milder than Delta.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Paddington, west London, Mr Johnson did not reveal the age of the person who died, or if they had underlying health conditions, which made them vulnerable to Covid.

Some 10 people infected with the variant are in hospital, health chiefs said today, adding they are aged between 18 and 85 years old and most had got two doses of the vaccine. 

‘So there’s reason to hope that their [the LSHTM’s] estimations for protection against hospitalisation and death might actually be better — even from two doses.

‘There’s some world evidence from South Africa that this may well be the case.’

While hospital admissions are rising in South Africa, data suggests patients are coming in with milder illnesses and are being discharged quicker.

In Tshwane, Gauteng Province, one of the epicentres of the new outbreak, just a quarter of patients admitted since November for Covid had severe illness, compared to 65 per cent at the same point in the Delta wave. And nationally, South Africa is recording fewer than 40 Covid deaths on average per day. 

But Dr Clarke warned against being complacent about the figures, adding that Omicron’s ultra-infectiousness could on its own be enough to overwhelm the NHS.

No10’s experts have warned there could be an astronomical one million Omicron infections per day by the New Year — about 20 times more than the current rate.

While scientists are split over the likelihood of the UK actually reaching such a level, Dr Clarke said: ‘We mustn’t overlook the transmissibility element.

‘If we’re talking 1million cases per day then we would expect a 20-fold increase in the number of those ending up in hospital. Even if you take half of that, that’s still 10 times more patients in the NHS.’ There are currently 800 people being admitted to UK hospitals for Covid each day. 

On reports that Omicron is much milder than past variants, Dr Clarke warned that even if this is the case, the strain may make jabs so weak at preventing infection that it creates a ‘mass sickness’.

‘We could end up with a society and economy that slows down and almost stops, not because people are in hospital but because people are at home sick and can’t work.’  

If true, the LSHTM paper’s estimate that two vaccine doses could provide as little as 36 per cent protection against symptomatic infection would put it below international vaccine thresholds.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said when Covid jabs were first put into development that they should cut the risk by at least 50 per cent to be considered for approval.

But Professor Hunter insisted that the UK’s new turbocharged booster programme should shield it from a wave of hospital admissions on par with previous peaks by raising immunity well above that threshold thanks to the combination of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

He told MailOnline ‘I believe we have more protection than some would imagine. In the case of South Africa, they seem to be doing [fine] even without the booster because they have high levels of natural infection, although we’ll need to wait another few weeks before we can be sure about that.’

The LSHTM model also looked at a worst-case scenario, in which waning immunity from two jabs provided as little as 45 per cent protection against hospital admission and death. 

But experts said this was too pessimistic and unlikely to be true in the real world. In that scenario, a booster dose could provide just 83.7 per cent protection against severe illness.

Professor Lawrence Young, a microbiologist at Warwick University, said he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that boosters will provide even better immunity in the real world and enough to prevent harsher restrictions.

But due to the two-week lag between getting a booster and developing immunity, he said light social curbs were necessary to keep infections low in the meantime.

He told MailOnline: ‘One of the many challenges with the super-charged booster campaign is that it takes around 10-14 days for the booster jab to provide high levels of protective immunity.

‘This further emphasises the importance of other protective measures to prevent infection and I’m convinced that Plan B is enough.’

Daily Covid cases in Omicron ground zero South Africa surge 119% in a week and hospital admissions jump 141% but country records just 11 deaths

South Africa’s Omicron wave continued to surge today as daily Covid cases and hospital admissions more than doubled in a week.

Officials recorded 13,992 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, marking a 119 per cent rise on the figure last Monday and six times more than a fortnight ago.

With a test positivity rate of 31 per cent today, it suggests the outbreak in South Africa is growing faster than swabs can keep up. 

The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said there were 422 new hospital admissions across the country in the last day, a rise of 141 per cent compared to last week.

It also revealed there has also been a sharp rise in Covid inpatient numbers since the weekend. 

A total of 6,198 people are being treated for the virus now compared to the 5,562 who were in hospital on Sunday — the biggest single-day rise since the new variant took off.

Yet, despite the increasing case and hospital numbers, there were just 11 deaths attributed to Covid in the last 24 hours, up only marginally on last week. 

Doctors in South Africa’s Omicron ground zero maintain that Omicron patients are coming in with milder illness and being discharged quicker.

Official figures suggest the number of Covid hospital patients with severe illness is a third of the level at the same point in the country’s Delta wave.

Scientists believe South Africa is benefitting from high levels of T cell immunity after recording high Covid infection rates in previous waves — with up to 80 per cent of the population already having had Covid.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert from the University of East Anglia in England, told MailOnline that there were ‘grounds for optimism’ for the UK, which has high levels of natural and vaccine-induced immunity. 

With a test positivity rate of 31 per cent today, it suggests the outbreak in South Africa is growing faster than swabs can keep up

The majority of new cases today were in Gauteng province (48 per cent) which has been at the heart of the country’s Omicron outbreak. It was followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19 per cent), while Western Cape accounted for 10% and Free State and North West each accounted for 5 per cent

The NICD said that today’s case numbers may include several backlogged infections that were delayed due to an IT glitch over the weekend.

The agency said on Twitter: ‘We are working through the data, which is now flowing into the #COVID19 laboratory data stream.

‘And we would like to indicate that the reporting backlog may result in the inclusion of retrospective case data over the next few days in the daily #COVID19 surveillance reports.’ 

The majority of new cases today were in Gauteng province (48 per cent) which has been at the heart of the country’s Omicron outbreak.

It was followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19 per cent), while Western Cape accounted for 10% and Free State and North West each accounted for 5 per cent.

Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga both made up 4 per cent, Limpopo accounted for 2 per cent and Northern Cape accounted for just 1 per cent.

It came as the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day today after more than 1,500 Britons were diagnosed with the mutant virus and the first death was confirmed.

Officials confirmed another 1,576 cases of the highly-evolved variant over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 4,713 — however this is believed to be a vast underestimate with the true number several times greater because not all positive tests are analysed for variants.  

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said the best estimate was that there are currently 200,000 overall daily infections across the country, with Omicron expected to become dominant in London by tomorrow and nationally within days. 

Yet, the Department of Health’s daily update revealed that there were only 54,661 overall Covid cases in the past 24 hours, marking a rise of just 6 per cent week-on-week. No10’s scientific advisers have warned this could rise to an astronomical 1million per day by the end of the month if Omicron continues to spread at its current pace. The DOH also recorded another 926 daily hospital admissions, up 14 per cent in a week, and 38 deaths, down 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister today revealed that at least one patient has died from the Omicron variant as he warned it was now leading to hospitalisations, and that the ‘best thing’ people could do was get a booster. 

The PM did not reveal the age of the person who died, or if they had underlying health conditions, which made them vulnerable or whether Omicron was the leading cause of their death or a secondary factor.

Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about Omicron, despite reports in South Africa that it is milder than Delta. The death in the UK is thought to be the first confirmed Omicron fatality in the world. However, given the variant makes up almost every case in South Africa it is likely that the vast majority of fatalities there are due to the mutant strain but a lack of testing means these are not picked up.

Two Covid jabs should still slash risk of dying from Omicron or being hospitalised by 84% even if they offer virtually zero protection against symptoms 

Two Covid jabs should still slash the risk of dying from Omicron by up to 84 per cent but a booster is twice as good at preventing someone from falling ill, according to official estimates. 

SAGE modelling published over the weekend worked off the assumption that two Pfizer doses give 83.7 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death from the highly-evolved strain. 

A two-dose course of AstraZeneca’s vaccine was estimated to reduce the risk of severe disease from Omicron by 77.1 per cent. However, both vaccine brands were assumed to wane within three to six months.

At that point, the Government’s scientific advisers believe protection from two AstraZeneca jabs could be as low as 61.3 per cent and 67.6 per cent for Pfizer.

A booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was estimated to top-up immunity to over 93 per cent, regardless of which jab someone was originally given — providing a similar level of protection as two doses did against Delta. 

These vaccine effectiveness estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies, rather than real-world data. It shows ‘vaccine effectiveness’ on symptomatic disease and hospitalisations/deaths from Omicron. The dots represent the number of people out of a group of 100 who are vulnerable to Covid. For example the study found boosters offered 93 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death. In a group of 100 booster vaccinated people, you would expect seven to require hospital care

The estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies. The model warned that the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant may lead to more hospitalisations than England’s second wave last January, when up to 4,000 infected patients were being admitted to NHS facilities every day.

Scientists have been racing to work out how effective existing vaccines will perform on the Omicron strain since it was first discovered on November 24. There was huge concern that it would be unrecognisable to jabs because of the 30-plus mutations on its spike protein. 

Current jabs were designed to target the original virus that emerged in Wuhan. But because the variant is so new, experts are still relying on lab experiments which may not reflect how the variant will behave in the real world.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he expects two jabs to protect against severe illness even better. He said hospital data in South Africa’s Omicron ground zero suggested T cells, which are more difficult to measure, were playing a crucial role in immunity.

However, Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, argued the drop in efficacy of two jabs was still ‘concerning’. He told MailOnline: ‘Nobody ever expected Omicron to wipe out vaccine efficacy it was just a drop that was expected — and that in itself can do enough damage.’ 

Even at 84 per cent protection from severe illness, that leaves 16 per cent vulnerable to being hospitalised or killed by Omicron. That’s up to three times as many as with Delta.  

 

Could London be hit with ‘Plan C’ before Christmas? Experts call for tougher restrictions as shock data shows Omicron now makes up 40% of all new Covid cases in capital and will be dominant by tomorrow

Fears were raised today that London could be hit with tougher restrictions before Christmas as experts called for action to curb the spread of Omicron.

Shock data shows the super mutant variant now makes up 40 per cent of cases in the capital. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the strain was on track to become dominant by tomorrow.

NHS leaders said No10 needs to be prepared to introduce stricter curbs than the current Plan B — which includes work from home guidance, face masks and vaccine passports — if Omicron is on the brink of overwhelming the NHS.  

The head of NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, told MailOnline the decision to impose either national or regional restrictions should not be made lightly. 

No10 has never ruled out returning to a whack-a-mole-esque approach, even though local lockdowns have failed to control outbreaks twice. Ministers have yet to unveil a concrete list of Plan C measures, but it could entail the return of checking into hospitality venues with the Covid app, vaccine passports in smaller venues and mandatory masks in more settings. 

And Independent SAGE member Professor Karl Friston said Omicron outbreaks would ‘certainly call’ for localised measures. 

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the strain is growing at a ‘phenomenal rate’, with officials warning there could be a million infections per day by the end of the month. 

London is still the region of England with the fastest-growing Covid outbreak, according to Government data. 

Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs of the capital, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich.

Meanwhile, the highest infection rates, where 0.7 per cent of the local population has tested positive in the past week, have been recorded in Sutton, Richmond upon Thames and Bromley.  


Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich

The Prime Minister, pictured with NHS boss Amanda Pritchard during a visit to the Stow Health Vaccination centre in Westminster, today said: ‘The risk is plainly there, we can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country. Here in the capital it probably represents about 40 per cent of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time’

Omicron cases are also trending upwards across the country, with 13 per cent of new infections in the East of England caused by the variant, followed by 12 per cent in the South East and North West, according to data released by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia

The UK Covid alert level was raised from level 3 to level 4 after the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant 

Speaking during a visit to the Stowe Health Vaccination centre in Westminster, Mr Johnson said: ‘The risk is plainly there, we can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country.

‘Here in the capital it probably represents about 40 per cent of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time.’   

Meanwhile, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This variant is growing at a phenomenal rate. We haven’t seen anything like this before. We expect 1million infections by the end of this month. 

Boris Johnson reveals first Briton has died from Omicron as he urges nation to ‘set aside idea’ that the variant is milder 

At least one British patient has died from the Omicron coronavirus variant, Boris Johnson revealed today. 

The Prime Minister said the new strain was also causing hospital admissions and the ‘best thing’ people could do was get their booster jab.

Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about the new strain amid claims by doctors in South Africa that it is milder than past variants.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Paddington, West London, he said: ‘Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.

‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’ 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the news underlined ‘the seriousness of the situation’.  

‘Already in London it’s gone from in three weeks from almost nothing in terms of Covid infections to 40 per cent of all infections. 

‘If you take that, this tidal wave of infection, and even if you assume as some people are saying, many people are claiming this is less severe, but lets see, lets establish the facts. 

‘But lets assume for a second even if it is less severe, a much smaller percentage of infected people that experience severe disease is still a huge number when it’s put against a large number of infections.’ 

Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows cases in London are growing fastest in Barking and Dagenham.

Some 323 people per 100,000 tested positive for Covid in the borough in the week up to November 30, which jumped to 478 per 100,000 in the seven days to December 7. 

Over the same period, cases shot up by 47 per cent in Hackney and City of London, while they jumped 44 per cent in Greenwich and Lewisham. 

Cases are also rising sharply in Southwark, climbing 42 per cent in a week, as well as Lambeth (41 per cent), Tower Hamlets (40 per cent) and Islington (40 per cent). 

Sutton is recording the highest infection rate in London, where 706 per 100,000 people were infected on any given day in the week up to December 7, followed by Richmond upon Thames (683), Bromley (633) and Hammersmith and Fulham (615).

NHS leaders told MailOnline a lockdown in London may be needed if the rising cases translate into a hike in hospitalisations and deaths. 

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation, told MailOnline that extra Covid restrictions could be imposed in London and other parts of the country if high cases put pressure on the health service.

He said: ‘Decisions about reintroducing national or regionalised lockdowns should not be made lightly as they can significantly affect people’s health and wellbeing.

‘But if the modelling scenarios about the possible impact of Omicron on hospitalisations and deaths look increasingly likely, the Government should be prepared to consider introducing further interventions to prevent that.

‘We are also encouraging the public to do what they can to keep transmission down, which includes wearing face coverings, ventilating indoor settings, getting vaccinated and boosted if eligible, following hand hygiene guidance, and getting tested.’ 

The map shows the Covid infection rate across London by neighbourhoods, or middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs). In the dark purple areas the rate is above 800 cases per 100,000 people, while in the purple areas it is between 400 and 799 cases per 100,000. The dark blue areas have a rate between 200 and 399 cases per 100,000 

The map shows the proportion of people who are double-vaccinated against Covid in the capital. It reveals that there has been much lower jab uptake in inner city areas than on the outskirts

And local leaders have warned officials should ‘heed the medical experts’ advice’ on whether local restrictions are needed.

Councillor Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, where cases have jumped 26 per cent in a week, told MailOnline: ‘Hospitals are already initiating alerts warning they’re ‘struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care’ and we’ve not even hit the winter spike yet. 

‘Just a small increase in Omicron admissions could break the NHS this winter. We all have a responsibility to stop that happening.’ 

Professor Karl Friston, scientific director at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging and Independent SAGE member, told MailOnline regional differences in the emergence of Omicron ‘would certainly call for local mitigating — or protective — public health measures’.

Figures show London’s Omicron outbreak is worse than the rest of the country.

In the East of England, 13 per cent of new cases are caused by the variant, followed by 12 per cent in the South East and North West, according to confidential Government data analysed by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia.

Professor Friston said: ‘The most potent way of slowing viral spread is to reduce contact rates; namely, avoiding places with high transmission risk, such as the commute to work, crowded and poorly ventilated gatherings at work, school or home, et cetera.

‘This speaks to local responses that support, inform and licence such responses. In turn, this rests upon informed and clear public health messaging. And, at a national level, governmental endorsement of – and support for – local responses.’

He said the current ‘ambivalent national response’ to Omicron is fuelled by uncertainty around how severe the strain is and how quickly Omicron will spread.


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