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Watch: PM 'confident' this Christmas will be 'considerably better than last'
The Prime Minister has urged people to get jabbed so the country is in a strong position for Christmas as he revealed the booster programme would be sped up.
Boris Johnson warned the new Omicron variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, as he announced a strengthening of England’s rules after the infections were identified in Nottingham and Essex.
Under new rules set forward at a Downing Street press conference, masks will be mandatory in shops and on public transport, contacts will have to self-isolate and new arrivals will have to quarantine until they test negative for coronavirus,
The PM added the government was planning to extend the booster programme to as wide a group as possible as well as reduce the gap between doses to counter the variant.
Johnson said: “From today we’re going to boost the booster campaign, we’re already planning to do six million jabs in England alone over the next three weeks and now we’re looking to go further.
“The Health Secretary has asked the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to consider giving boosters to as wide a group as possible as well as reducing the gap between your second dose and your booster.”
Questioned about the prospect for Christmas festivities, the PM said he was “confident” this year “will be considerably better than last Christmas.”
But chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance added the UK may need to “face-up” to the possibility of further action if the Omicron variant is very transmissible.
He said: “At the moment, the models are more ‘if it spreads very fast, of course it’s going to spread very fast and go into a lot of places, and if it spreads less fast it’s going to do so less’.
“But if it’s very transmissible and does cause big escape, then clearly that’s a major issue we have to face up to.”
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed the Omnicron cases, which are both believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.
The individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious
Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will face travel restrictions from Sunday, when they will join South Africa and five other neighbouring nations on England’s red list.
But the Prime Minister said border measures can “only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together”, so all contacts with a suspected case of the new variant will have to isolate for ten days, regardless of their vaccination status.
Watch: UK toughens Covid rules as new strain arrives