Plan C by Christmas? Boris Johnson refuses THREE TIMES to rule out MORE restrictions in England

Plan C by Christmas? Boris Johnson refuses THREE TIMES to rule out MORE restrictions in England 2
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Some of the measures that could feature if UK nations go to Plan C

Some of the measures that could feature if UK nations go to Plan C

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Britain was facing the prospect of even greater curbs on freedom before Chrstmas today as Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to rule out more Covid rules to combat Omicron.

The Prime Minister insisted that the current Plan B of restrictions including working from home and Covid passports for events, plus boosters, was the right way to go in England. 

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But asked three times to rule out even tighter restrictions in an interview he admitted ‘we have to watch where the pandemic is going’.

Any such move could see Brits requiring masks in pubs and restaurants – which have an exemption under Plan B – as well as vaccine passports introduced for smaller venues. 

His comments came as Scottish and Welsh leaders set the scene for even tighter rules in their respective countries.

In Scotland the SNP health minister Humza Yousaf said that new measures were ‘inevitable’. He also warned that a new target to offer boosters to all eligible adults by the end of the year will be ‘extremely challenging’.  

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Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, west London, the Prime Minister said: ‘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.’    

Mr Johnson, asked three times to rule out even tighter restrictions in an interview, admitted 'we have to watch where the pandemic is going'

Mr Johnson, asked three times to rule out even tighter restrictions in an interview, admitted ‘we have to watch where the pandemic is going’

Plan C by Christmas? Boris Johnson refuses THREE TIMES to rule out MORE restrictions in England 3

In Scotland the SNP health minister Humza Yousaf (pictured with Nicola Sturgeon) said that new measures were ‘inevitable’

Current cases in England

Current cases in England

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Current cases in Wales

Current cases in Wales

Current Covid cases in Scotland

Current Covid cases in Scotland

Now NHS tells people to STOP booking boosters online as website CRASHES 

NHS bosses today urged Britons desperate to get their Covid-19 booster jab to try again tomorrow after the website crashed again this morning and huge queues built up outside vaccination centres around the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people were rushing to get their third dose less than two weeks before Christmas, just hours after Boris Johnson revealed that the booster programme would open up to all UK adults from today.

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Those aged 30 or over are now eligible to book their vaccine online via the NHS website, while people aged 18 to 29 can book there from Wednesday – but all UK adults can now go to a walk-in centre from today.

Those trying to book a jab appointment on the website were greeting with a message saying: ‘The NHS website is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve these issues. Thank you for your patience.’

And the NHS later said in a tweet: ‘The COVID vaccine booking service is currently facing extremely high demand so is operating a queueing system. For users aged 18 to 29, please be aware that booking opens on Wednesday 15 December. For all others experiencing waits, we would advise trying again later today or tomorrow.’

 

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First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford last night agreed to speed up their booster jab campaigns last night after Boris Johnson demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year. 

But they both left open the door to tighter restrictions being introduced in coming weeks.

 Asked about more restrictions in response to the Omicron outbreak today, Mr Yousaf told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I think it’s inevitable that we will announce additional protective measures.”

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It is the strongest indication that additional measures will be introduced, and follows comments by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney that ministers were going to consider reimposing more restrictions, over the weekend.

Changes to the current coronavirus rules will be announced at Holyrood on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf added.

Both Scotland and Wales have had mask orders, Covid passports and working from home measures for weeks, steps only now being introduced in England.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to offer all adults a Covid booster by the end of the year, but added: ‘Given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead, however, it is also possible that further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary.

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‘This is true even if Omicron proves to be slightly less severe than Delta.

‘The number of cases will still put significant pressure on the NHS and the economy. The government will therefore consider the latest data tomorrow ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and I will set out any decisions to parliament later that day.’

In a separate announcement Mr Drakeford said: ‘The cabinet is closely monitoring this rapidly changing public health situation and has moved to a weekly review cycle.

‘We are facing a very serious situation and we may need to take further steps to keep Wales safe. I will continue to keep Wales updated.’

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It came as Mr Johnson was told to urge people to cancel their Christmas parties to cut down on the risk of super-charging transmission of the new variant.

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘At the moment, we’re in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train.

‘We’ve got to do something or else we’re in real danger of overwhelming our society and overwhelming the NHS.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to offer all adults a Covid booster by the end of the year, but added: 'Given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead, however, it is also possible that further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to offer all adults a Covid booster by the end of the year, but added: ‘Given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead, however, it is also possible that further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary.

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In a separate announcement Mr Drakeford said: 'The cabinet is closely monitoring this rapidly changing public health situation and has moved to a weekly review cycle.

In a separate announcement Mr Drakeford said: ‘The cabinet is closely monitoring this rapidly changing public health situation and has moved to a weekly review cycle.

They agreed to speed up their booster jab campaigns last night after Boris Johnson demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year

They agreed to speed up their booster jab campaigns last night after Boris Johnson demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year

Trains emptier and traffic drops on first day of WFH guidance

London’s near-deserted stations, Underground carriages and roads looked like lockdown again as City bosses vented at Boris Johnson for asking millions to work from home from today because of Omicron while still encouraging them to head to town for Christmas nights out.

The world famous concourses at Waterloo, Euston and Paddington, usually rammed with commuters between 7am and 9am, were empty this morning. Tube platforms and carriages were also largely unoccupied as offices emptied.

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Traffic was also running freely on routes usually choked with traffic on the quietest Monday morning rush hour in London since September 6, MailOnline can reveal, with one central London resident tweeting: ‘I’m slap bang in the middle of London and roads are unbelievably quiet now’. Another commuter tweeted: ‘Work from home order well and truly back. Tube is absolutely empty this morning’.

Roads and railways across the UK including in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle were also quiet this morning.

The working from home recommendation is the latest step of Mr Johnson’s Plan B to slow the spread of Omicron in the UK – but critics including his own MPs believe it is simply a stepping stone towards another lockdown.

There is also incredulity about the PM’s insistence that people shouldn’t go to the office, but should still go to Christmas parties and dinners. But the great office exodus means businesses such as pubs, cafes and restaurants, already struggling, will be pushed to the brink as office workers stay away.

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‘And there’s so many things you can do. The first thing, and the most obvious thing, is that if you reduce the number of social contacts you have you limit the spread of the infection.

‘Now, nobody wants to give up their Christmas parties, and nobody wants to miss out on meeting up with people.

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‘It’s a little bit like Christmas dinner – if you have too big a Christmas breakfast, then you spoil your appetite for your Christmas dinner, which is what really counts.

‘And I think, in the same way, we need to think really seriously about our contacts. How important are they? Do we really need them and is it more important to act carefully now so that the contacts we really want and we really need are still happening?’

Dr Kit Yates, senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath, said hospital admissions from Omicron could be ‘double’ those seen last January.

He told Sky News: ‘Nadhim Zahawi has done a calculation which is based on exponential growth – yesterday we recorded 1,239 Omicron cases, it’s likely that there were more in the community, we’re missing some.

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‘If we are doubling every three days, that could increase to 100,000 by the end of the month. If it’s doubling every two days – and we think it’s somewhere in between – then we could be talking about maybe 900,000 cases a day by the end of the month, and that’s the ones that we are catching, not the ones that were missing.

‘And certainly in terms of hospitalisations, there’s been some estimates from Denmark suggesting about 1% of Omicron cases being hospitalised, so if we are up at a million cases, then we could be talking about 10,000 hospitalisations a day, which is more than double what we saw last January.’

Mr Johnson has today come under fire for his Omicron-fighting pledge to dish out a million Covid booster jabs a day, with senior Tories and Labour questioning why the Government didn’t kick off the operation months earlier.

NHS bosses have also warned that scaling up the programme now will be ‘incredibly difficult’ and inevitably have ‘consequences’, with patients once again facing the threat of cancelled operations.

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In a massively ambitious move last night, the Prime Minister 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.’

The Army and thousands of extra volunteers will be drafted in to achieve the target, and clinic hours extended to help dish out up to 20million jabs over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government's Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV's Good Morning Britain: 'At the moment, we're in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train'

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘At the moment, we’re in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train’

The drive will also see 42 military planning teams across every region, additional vaccine sites and mobile units, an extension of opening hours for clinics so they run seven days a week and thousands of extra volunteer vaccinators trained.

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But concerns about whether the Government could even hit the goal were raised almost immediately after Mr Johnson’s 8pm 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.

GPs fumed they found out about the 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 blasted the Government for failing to ramp up the booster drive in September, saying it was always clear that Covid would become worse in the winter months.

And Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned the UK was already ‘behind’ on rolling out the top-up jabs, and that the ‘vaccine wall of defence was crumbling’.

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In another sign of chaos, the NHS’s online booking site crashed as thousands of desperate Britons flocked onto the site to try to arrange their top-up jab.

The PM’s intervention last night comes amid the ever-growing threat of tougher restrictions in January, with the potential for a new lockdown if Omicron cases surge out of control after the UK’s Covid alert level was raised from Level 3 to Level 4.

Both Scotland and Wales have dangled the possibility of having to go even further in bid to ward off the highly-transmissible variant.

Yesterday the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant — an increase of 65 per cent in the past 24 hours. It was the highest daily rise and more than double the previous record, with the total number of known cases now sitting above 3,000.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said booster jabs were not rolled out earlier because it was a ‘difficult decision to make’. He also warned that elective appointments — such as hip replacements — were likely to be postponed as the NHS turns its resources to dishing out the top-up shots.

In his speech last night, the PM urged people to ‘get boosted now’ and said the UK is ‘now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant’ and ‘we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe’.

Red list to be scrapped after just a fortnight and replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated

The travel red list is set to be scrapped as soon as this week.

The emergence of Omicron forced thousands of travellers into hotel quarantine at a cost of £2,285  per person for ten days.

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But just a fortnight after the list was introduced, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is said to have convinced colleagues it should be replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated.

Just a fortnight after the list was introduced, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is said to have convinced colleagues it should be replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated

Just a fortnight after the list was introduced, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is said to have convinced colleagues it should be replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated

The move is expected to be approved this week, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Data suggests that with Omicron spreading rapidly worldwide, there will be limited differences in countries’ infection rates.

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The return of the red list was met with fury from officials in affected African countries, while travellers complained of six-hour journeys to their hotel and ‘grim’ food.

At Wednesday’s Covid briefing, Boris Johnson promised to re-examine the policy amid claims it was unfair and ineffective. 

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