The Prime Minister warned 90% of ICU cases are not boosted as he left his bolthole Chequers to address soaring Omicron rates – and defended his decision not to introduce Covid restrictions in England before New Year’s Eve
Boris Johnson today finally broke his silence over soaring Covid rates as he insisted “everybody should enjoy New Year” – with a window open.
The Prime Minister admitted Omicron variant cases and hospitalisations were both rising but defended his decision not to impose new rules in England, unlike the other three UK nations. No10 has not ruled out new restrictions after January 1.
Mr Johnson said 90% of Covid patients in intensive care units were not boosted – showing vaccines are working, and also showing how urgently people should come forward for a top-up jab.
The Prime Minister has spent Christmas bunkered down in his country bolthole, Chequers. He last addressed a confused public on December 24 in a pre-recorded video posted online.
But he left his luxury retreat to visit a Milton Keynes vaccination centre less than an hour’s drive away. Asked where he had been, the disgruntled PM replied: “I’ve been in this country. Why do you think…?”
He urged people to ensure New Year’s Eve parties are well-ventilated, which can include opening a window or having them outside.
He left the door open to cross-border trips from Wales and Scotland. Asked about the prospect he replied: “I think everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way.
“Take a test, ventilation, think about others – but above all, get a booster.”
It comes after care minister Gillian Keegan suggested people in England should have New Year’s Eve parties outdoors.
She told Sky News yesterday: “Do be cautious, take a lateral flow test before you go out, go to well-ventilated areas. I’ve been to a couple of outdoor parties actually, people have moved things to outside.
“So just be cautious, but do try to enjoy yourself as well – but cautiously.”
The Prime Minister insisted the vaccine booster campaign meant festivities could go ahead in England despite the raging mutant strain.
Paying tribute to the “huge proportion of the British public” who have been jabbed, he said: “That is allowing us to go ahead with New Year in the cautious way that we are.”
He went on: “We’ve got a lot of cases of Omicron but on the other hand we can see the data about the relative mildness of Omicron and… the very very clear effect of getting those jabs, getting those boosters in particular.”
And he insisted he would meet the target for all eligible adults in England to have the chance to get their booster by New Year’s Eve.
He said: “I’ve no doubt at all that by January 1, by the New Year, every adult in the country will have been offered the slot to get a booster, they’ll be given a slot to get one.
“The question is are we getting people coming forward to take advantage of those slots.”
Defending England’s outlier status, he insisted he was right to pursue a different course from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have curbed indoor gatherings.
“I think that we’ve looked at the balance of the risks together, we generally concert our strategies together, we see the data showing that, yes, the cases are rising and, yes, hospitalisations are rising, but what is making a huge difference is the level of booster resistance or level of vaccine-induced resistance in the population,” he said.
“What we need to do now is really finish off that work.”
Boris Johnson said there were 2.4 million eligible double-jabbed people who were yet to take up the offer of a booster.
He told reporters: “I’m sorry to say this but the overwhelming majority of people who are currently ending up in intensive care in our hospitals are people who are not boosted.
“I’ve talked to doctors who say the numbers are running up to 90% of people in intensive care, who are not boosted.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you’re eight times more likely to get into hospital altogether.
“So it’s a great thing to do. It’s very, very important. Get boosted for yourself, and enjoy New Year sensibly and cautiously.”
He added: “We’re looking at the data and what we’re seeing is that we’ve got cases certainly going up, we’ve got a lot of cases of Omicron.
“But, on the other hand, we can see the data about the relative mildness of Omicron. What we can also see is the very, very clear effect of getting those jabs, getting those boosters in particular – and that’s what’s making a huge difference.
“According to some of the surveys I’ve seen, 90% of the patients in ICU are people who are not boosted. So, think about that. Think about the risk you’re running with your own health if you fail to get a booster.”
- This breaking news story briefly referred to 90% of ICU patients being ‘unvaccinated’. This was later corrected, to reflect that Mr Johnson said they had not had a booster.