Boris Johnson’s government has reintroduced some Covid restrictions and extended the country’s vaccine programme in a bid to slow the spread of omicron, the new variant scientists fear is spreading more quickly than delta, the currently dominant strain in the UK. (Please register to access the poll below.)
Last week MPs voted through plans, now in force, making it mandatory for people to wear face coverings in public spaces such as shops and on public transport. The prime minister has also set a target of offering all adults an additional, third vaccine dose by the end of January.
The measures have been brought in as concern grows that B.1.1529, named omicron by the World Health Organisation last week, could spark a fourth wave of infections in the UK. Cases are already high – the seven-day average was over 47,000 as of 7 December.
Experts are worried that the number of mutations on omicron’s spike protein, which allows a virus to enter the body’s cells, could help it to evade current vaccines and therefore send case rates even higher, potentially resulting in more hospitalisations.
A total of 437 omicron infections have been detected to date, but scientists believe this figure to be much higher, with cases of the variant suspected to be doubling every day.
The latest available government data shows that 51,138,245 people in the UK have received a first vaccine dose, 46,582,425 a second and 20,909,809 have come forward for a third, or booster shot. UK citizens are not legally required to have a vaccine unless they work in a health or care setting.
But should those who are putting other people at risk by refusing to get inoculated face fines?
The measure will come into force each month from 16 January. Anyone in that age group who is not vaccinated faces a 100 euro (£85) fine. Greece becomes the second European country, after Austria, to make jabs mandatory.
But would this be appropriate in the UK? Tell us what you think in our poll below.