PM Warns Covid-19 Restrictions To Return If People Don't Get Booster
November 16, 2021
A growing wave of Covid-19 infections across Europe has increased the chance we could see a could return to "restrictions on our daily lives”, Boris Johnson has said.
Earlier on Monday the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that everyone over the age of 40 should receive a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
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The Prime Minister urged people to take up offers of vaccinations as soon as possible to protect the UK from following a trend of rising cases on the continent. A number of neighbouring countries have already moved to bring back Covid-19 restrictions to tackle the surge in cases. Johnson used today's press conference to warn that without further vaccination the UK was also at risk of facing such measures.
"We don't yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent," Johnson said. "Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection, and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures, while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.
"It shows us that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK, and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.”
But he ruled out moving to the government’s “plan B” for tackling coronavirus just yet, suggesting that a focus on booster jabs will be enough to ward off rising infections. Johnson urged those eligible to engage with the expanded booster jab scheme, adding: “It would be an utter tragedy if after everything we've been through, people who had done the right thing by getting double vaccinated, ended up becoming seriously ill, or even losing their lives because they allow their immunity to wane, by not getting that booster."
Appearing alongside him, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned "we're beginning to see a winter respiratory effect" of other viruses impacting on the coronavirus pandemic.
"There has already been a very significant increase in eastern Europe which is still ongoing, with significant numbers of people dying, in particular among the unvaccinated,” he said. "That has now moved westward and, as you can see, is now increasing significantly, also in many western European countries.
"We all knew – everywhere in Europe we knew – that as we went into winter, into the typical respiratory virus/flu season, that the risks would be greater, and I think this is a demonstration of the fact that we're beginning to see a winter respiratory effect."
He said a rethink on whether Plan B would be needed if case numbers increased on the scale seen in Europe, though they are currently "broadly flat”.
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"There is substantial pressure on the NHS and that is widely recognised by everybody, ministers obviously included,” Whitty said. "But in terms of the Covid numbers, they're not currently going up in the kind of numbers you're seeing in continental Europe, but obviously if they did that would be a situation where we would have to look again at what the situation is at that stage.”
Johnson said he can see “nothing in the data at the moment that makes me think we have to go to further measures”, saying the most important thing people can do to prevent further restrictions is for people to “get the boosters”.
He said "GPs are hitting it out of the park again”, adding: "It's starting to build a lot of momentum, but we need to see those 50-plus groups and the 60-plus groups - who can also wind up in hospital very, very easily - getting their booster as soon as you're called forward to get it.
"That's the best protection we can have."
© Alain Tolhurst / PoliticsHome 2021