Brits told to limit socialising before Christmas as Omicron Covid strain spreads

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The NHS is preparing a plan to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations in an effort to protect Britain against an expected wave of the new Omicron variant – with more advice issued

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Jonathan Van-Tam says ‘no time to delay’ over Omicron variant

Brits are being urged to “not socialise when we don’t particularly need to” as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

The UK Health Security Agency gave the advice as the number of confirmed cases in the UK increased to 14 this morning, as three more were reported in Scotland.

UKHSA head Dr Jenny Harries, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas we tend to socialise more so I think all of those will need to be taken into account.”

Asked whether people should be told to work from home in England, as is happening in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, she said: “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay.

Some restrictions have returned – and more could follow
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“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jabs.”

So far nine people have been identified with Omicron in Scotland, along with five in England.

Dr Harries said there could be a further 10 “highly likely” cases.

The NHS is preparing a plan to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations in an effort to protect Britain against an expected wave of the new Omicron variant.

Health chiefs are working in a revised strategy for the “most complex phase” of the UK’s vaccination programme to deliver around 20 million more jabs in the coming months.

Confirmed cases in the UK increased to 14 this morning
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Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)

There will be a Downing Street briefing providing more detail on when under-40s can get a booster this afternoon.

The Government has tasked the already-overstretched service to put the booster programme “on steroids”, with the interval after second doses halved to three months.

Currently around 2.5 million doses a week are being administered but this need to rise to the 3.5 million being carried out earlier this year.

Since then a number of mass vaccination centres have closed and many GPs – tasked with clearing the record NHS backlog – stopped administering the vaccines.

Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Breakfast: “This is a programme which is all about speed.

People now have to wear a masks on public transport and shops in England
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“So the two challenges are going to be the logistics of actually delivering so much vaccine in a very short time and of course, it’s important that people come forward and receive those jabs in good time so that they can build up that extra immunity that we need to be sure that we’re protected against this new variant.

“So it’s a challenging month ahead for the NHS.”

He added: “The worry is that if you give somebody double work to do, they can’t do whatever else it was that they would have been doing.”

The NHS is looking to bring more vaccination hubs back on stream despite already being under more pressure than any other time in its history.

An NHS England spokesman, said: “The NHS is having to work at extreme pace to respond to this new variant and to put in place the next and most complex phase of the successful Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“Following updated guidance from the JCVI today, the NHS will shortly set out how staff will expand the booster programme – this will include how booster jabs will be given in priority order so that the most vulnerable people are protected first, while also increasing capacity to vaccinate millions more people in a shorter space of time.

“The NHS will contact you when you are due to book in for your lifesaving booster vaccination, and when you get the call, it’s vital that people come forward as quickly as possible.”

Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, said that even though vaccination experts have reduced the time frame between second jabs and boosters, it was likely people would still be waiting for a period of months before being called forward.

“Many of the premises of vaccine hubs have now reverted to their everyday use,” he told Talk Radio.

“Many of the volunteers about got jobs and they’ve gone back to work.

“I don’t think it’s going to be possible to get the same kind of speed and capacity as we as we saw earlier (in the year).

“So allowing people to get jabs from three months after their last dose, in practice, I suspect that most, mostly it will be for four or five, even six months.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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