Britons getting Covid vaccines shouldn’t have to wait around for 15 minutes afterwards, health chiefs ruled today in an attempt to speed up the booster roll-out as the NHS bragged the chaotic first day of Boris Johnson’s jabbing blitz was the ‘busiest ever Monday’.
Professor Chris Whitty and fellow chief medical officers said the observation period after getting an injection will ’cause more harm than it can avert’ and should be suspended.
After having a vaccine people are usually asked to wait for a period of observation to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction. But the top medics claimed keeping up the advice would ‘significantly reduce the number of people who can be vaccinated over a short period of time’.
The final decision on whether to temporarily suspend the post-jab wait — which the medics said will ‘protect as many citizens as possible over a short period of time’ — now lies with ministers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
If approved, the UK’s medicines regulator and top scientists can decide to reintroduce it after the turbo-charged booster campaign is over, they said.
Meanwhile, NHS chiefs today bragged about the first day of the booster vaccine blitz, despite scenes of absolute chaos that were repeated again today with Britons queuing for hours only to be turned away.
Some 513,722 top-up doses were dished out across the UK yesterday, which the health service described as its ‘busiest Monday ever’. But the total figure – hailed as a ‘remarkable achievement’ – is still just half of the million-a-day target needed to meet the Prime Minister’s ambitious pledge of offering a jab to all eligible over-18s by New Year’s Day.
Yesterday’s booster drive descended into chaos as the campaign was suddenly opened to every adult and millions scrambled to get their vital third dose ahead of Christmas, with the NHS site crashing under demand and hours-long queues forming outside walk-in centres.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab today acknowledged ‘teething problems’ in scaling up the scheme, saying it would take a ‘few days’ to get to a ‘steady state’. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’ll keep straining every sinew to make sure we can reach that target.’
But the chaos continued today, as Britons desperate to get jabbed queued from 6am outside clinics that didn’t open for another two hours. Massive queues snaked out of vaccination centres again, as tens of thousands of adults waited patiently for an extra dose as the threat of Omicron continues to grow.
Younger Britons claimed to have been turned away by clinics because they are not yet eligible, after waiting over an hour to be seen. The drive is currently officially open to over-30s only and will expand to all over-18s from tomorrow.
And the NHS booking site – which crashed yesterday due to the overwhelming demand – told people trying to get an appointment to ‘try again tomorrow’. Only 650,000 appointments were booked yesterday, with them scheduled for the coming days and weeks, despite more than 4.4million attempts to book shots.
Boris Johnson thanked NHS workers for their ‘incredible efforts’ in a letter and called for their help in delivering the ‘biggest, fastest vaccination drive this country has ever seen’.
In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, the Prime Minister pledged to offer all eligible adults a third jab by the end of the year. The mammoth task at hand effectively involves vaccinating more than a million people every day.
Mr Johnson has now issued a new rallying cry for tens of thousands of people to volunteer to help the rollout hit its ‘ambitious’ targets.
But a senior NHS source last night broke ranks to warn that even hitting that daily number by Christmas would be tough, let alone maintaining the level throughout the month.
At the height of the NHS’s vaccine drive in March, the health service never managed to get more than 850,000 jabbed every day. The current daily average stands at around 420,000, and there are around 18million who have yet to have their third jab.
Meanwhile, GPs today complained they would not have enough jabs to ramp up the scheme in the next fortnight after being given until 9am to order stocks to meet the December 31 deadline. Dr Jess Harvey, a GP in Shropshire, said her surgery found out about the scaling up of the programme at the same time as the rest of the nation.
As the booster drive was mired in chaos:
- Boris Johnson faced a 70-strong Tory revolt over plans to impose vaccine passports on nightclubs and large events, amid warnings they are a ‘softening up exercise’ for a full lockdown;
- Britons are still left unable to order lateral flow tests on the day new regime requiring all Covid case contacts to take rapid swabs for seven days in a row begins;
- Nicola Sturgeon prepares to tighten curbs north of the border with social distancing and limits on indoor gatherings set to be brought back;
- Mr Javid warns three jabs will be needed for a Covid passport once Brits have had a ‘reasonable chance’ to receive the shots.
At the height of the first vaccination drive Britain was delivered a maximum of 840,000 jabs on a single day. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this level needs to be matched ant then exceeded. Pictured above is a graph showing the number of booster jabs delivered per day (green bars) and the target for the rest of December (red bars)
BRISTOL: People desperate to get a booster jab before Christmas queued up in a snaking line over a car park. Many are facing up to three hour waits to get their top-up doses
RAMSGATE, KENT: People pictured waiting to be called for their jab at a mass vaccination centre. Britain’s booster drive is being ramped up to beat the Omicron Covid variant
SOLIHULL, BIRMINGHAM: Hundreds were seen lining up to get their doses at a vaccination centre in Solihull, having to queue across the high street
WESTMINSTER, LONDON: People were also seen queuing along the pavement today at the Abbey Centre in the capital in order to get a booster before seeing loved ones at Christmas
WESTMINSTER, LONDON: People pictured queuing to get their booster vaccines at St Thomas’ hospital. Their clinic had five-hour long queues yesterday, but promised everyone waiting would get a jab
Boris Johnson (pictured returning from his morning run today) has set a target of delivering one million Covid booster jabs a day. Senior NHS sources broke ranks last night to warn hitting that number by Christmas will be tough. And Health Secretary Sajid Javid (right) heading into Downing Street today
This graph shows how Britain’s vaccination drive is going. There was a lag in September as the booster drive got going, which opposition parties have already slammed saying it has put the country at unnecessary risk
It comes amid the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant. The above graph shows cumulative cases identified in the UK by each nation. It reveals cases are surging rapidly, and yesterday rose 50 per cent compared to the day before
According to NHS data, many older age groups who have been eligible to get a Covid booster since September still have double digit percentage figures of people who are yet to get a third dose. Some 81 per cent of people aged 40-to-49 have yet to have a booster
The super-mutant strain already makes up around half of cases in London, and is expected to become dominant in the capital by Wednesday. It is also behind an increasing proportion of cases across the rest of the country
Furious GPs are warning they are already out of vaccine. Pictured above is the queue for the booster walk-in centre at St Thomas’ hospital, London. The picture was taken at 7.30am this morning, 30 minutes before the booster hub opens. Yesterday the line stretch to an up to five-hour wait after only four employees were assigned to dishing out the doses
Britons trying to book their booster jab on the NHS bookings website are now greeted with this message, warning that there is ‘extremely high demand’ and that those who are unable to get through should ‘try again later’
In a report to the Government, the UK’s four chief medical officers said suspending the 15-minute wait ‘will lead to a marginal increase in risk for a very small number of people’.
But they noted this figure is ‘substantially fewer than would be harmed by a slower vaccine rollout in the current public health emergency leading to some citizens not getting boosted or vaccinated prior to exposure to Omicron’.
All of the Covid jabs used in the UK are safe and have low rates of severe side effects, but all vaccines can cause anaphylaxis — a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to a trigger, such as a vaccine.
The anaphylaxis rate after a booster dose is 0.26 per 100,000, which is less than seen after the first two doses of Moderna (1.47 per 100,000) and Pfizer (1.23 per 100,000).
The CMOs repeated warnings that Omicron is spreading ‘extremely rapidly’ and doubling every two to three days.
The group wrote: ‘Even if less severe than Delta, with the very high numbers involved modelling from several groups show this will cause substantial mortality, severe illness and pressure on the NHS. This constitutes a national health emergency.’
And the 15-minute wait means 500,000 fewer people can get vaccinated by the end of the year who would otherwise have done so, which is ‘much greater’ than the number who will suffer anaphylaxis post-vaccination, the CMOs said.
It comes with NHS chiefs in a mad scramble to get Britain’s booster drive ramped up, telling sites to stay open for at least 12 hours a day — and planning new vaccination centres in cathedrals, football stadiums and leisure centres.
Britons woke up in the middle of the night to book their booster jabs online and avoid lengthy queues this morning. Those who got up between 2am and 5am reported that they had successfully booked their vaccination, but others complained they spent ages in the queue.
And some people started queuing outside walk-in clinics at 6am to get their booster jab including at St Thomas’ hospital in London, which does not open until 8am.
Under-30s also told how they had waited more than an hour in the queue to get a booster only to be told they were ‘not eligible’ and should come back tomorrow.
Politics Home reporter Noa Hoffman wrote on Twitter: ‘Just spent an hour queuing for a booster in a walk-in centre only to be turned away and told I’m not eligible for a jab until tomorrow.’
And another reporter said they were told the same by their vaccine centre, despite receiving a text yesterday inviting them to book a slot for the jab.
Some 20million Britons are thought to now be eligible for boosters but yet to get a dose, but only half a million managed to secure appointments last night.
GPs have complained they were left with too little time to sort out orders for jabs after finding out at 8pm on Sunday — along with the rest of the nation — that they would need to get third doses to all over-18s.
Raab claims total number of Britons hospitalised with Omicron is 25 times the true toll before back-tracking
A transparency row over No10’s handling of crucial Omicron data deepened today as Dominic Raab claimed 250 Britons infected with the variant were hospitalised — before correcting the figure to just nine.
The Government was heavily criticised yesterday for announcing the first Omicron death without revealing the person’s age, condition, vaccination status or whether Covid was even the primary reason.
Asked how many people were hospitalised with the super strain during a round of interviews this morning, the Justice Secretary Mr Raab told Sky News the figure was ‘in the low hundreds, I think 250 the last time I looked’.
But 15 minutes later, in a separate interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Raab said: ‘I think we’ve got nine people who are in hospital with it.’
He corrected the figure on the third attempt with ITV, clarifying that there are ’10 in hospital’ with Omicron. Mr Raab claimed he had ‘misheard’ the original Sky question.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told MailOnline 10 Omicron-infected people had been admitted to hospital as of yesterday, saying 250 was ‘incorrect’.
But officials have still refused to offer any more details about any of the hospitalised patients, only saying all were aged between 18-85 and the ‘majority had received two doses’ of a vaccine.
Doctors last night warned the Government was causing ‘unnecessary alarm’ with its Omicron statistics.
The fallout follows even more chaotic messaging by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid last night.
Addressing MPs about the threat Omicron poses yesterday, Mr Javid told MPs up to 200,000 Britons were getting infected with Covid every day. His comments sparked immediate confusion as to whether he meant the figure was solely for the variant or the virus overall.
Department of Health sources later told The Telegraph it was just for Omicron — but experts have questioned the source of the figure and officials have yet to respond to MailOnline and clarify the situation.
Dr Jess Harvey, a GP in Shropshire, said people in her area were currently unable to get boosters because of an ‘issue with stock’ after they were left with less than a day to organise the extra roll out.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’re not doing any [boosters] today because there’s an issue with stock, because essentially we’ve been given less than 24 hours to sort out all the stock that we need for the next two weeks for our network, which is nine practices.
‘We’re talking thousands of vaccines and we’ve been given less than 24 hours for everybody to organise their clinics, get their numbers together and us to submit.
‘We’ve been told those numbers we submit can’t be changed after 9am this morning. I don’t know how we can be asked to operate on something like that but we’re doing it and trying to make the best of it that we can.’
She added that many GPs at her surgeries had already cut or cancelled leave to ensure they could see patients and help dish out booster jabs this winter.
Dr Harvey said they also hoped to offer a normal service, but that in some cases patients appointments might need to be rearranged.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab admitted today the drive would face some ‘teething problems’.
He said: ‘I appreciate there have been some teething problems as we ramp this up, it does take a few days just to make sure we get to a steady state.
‘We’ll keep straining every sinew to make sure we can reach that target.’
Ministers were today accused of stoking fears over the Omicron variant after getting their facts wrong.
Speaking on Sky News this morning Mr Raab claimed there were 250 people in hospital with the mutant strain.
But minutes later while on BBC Breakfast he said there were just nine.
Challenged over the discrepancy on ITV’s Good Morning Britain he said the actual number of Omicron patients in hospital was ten.
He said: ‘I misheard one of the questions around whether it was hospitalisations of Omicron-related patients or more generally, but the figures are: One death from Omicron, 10 in hospital, and I can tell you the latest daily hospitalisations (for all Covid strains) run at 900.’
Two sources confirmed that the actual figure was ten patients in hospital with the Omicron variant.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has also come under fire after he told the Commons there were 200,000 Covid cases a day in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency was later forced to clarify that he meant 200,000 Omicron infections a day. They said this was down to exponential growth of the virus, with cases doubling every two to three days.
Confirmed cases of the mutant strain in the UK rose by 50 per cent yesterday, with the total now up to 4,700. But scientists warn there are likely many more that are not being picked up because the UK only checks around 20 per cent of cases for variants.
Separate data suggests it has already spread to more than two thirds of local authorities in England.
BRISTOL: Pictured above is the long snaking queue at one of Bristol’s vaccination centres, as people rush to get their top-up jabs before the festive period kicks in
NORTHWICH, CHESHIRE: Britons pictured queuing for their booster vaccines at a Cheshire market town. It comes on the second day of jab chaos
BOLTON, GREATER MANCHESTER: A Covid vaccination bus arrived in the town today to dish out top-up doses. NHS chiefs have said they are asking vaccination centres to work at least 12 hours a day to get all eligible people jabbed
WESTMINSTER, LONDON: Britons pictured queuing for a Covid booster jab at St Thomas’ hospital in the capital early this morning. The clinic opened at 8am, but the line started forming from 6am
People STILL can’t order lateral flow tests as new regime requiring Covid contacts to swab daily begins
Millions of Britons told to use daily lateral flow tests to slow the spread of Omicron from today still can’t get them online for the second day running with Amazon now brought in to bail out Royal Mail in the run up to Christmas.
The Government’s Plan B relies on rapid and regular testing to avoid mandatory quarantine – and critics fear a lack of tests could lead to more restrictions or even a post-Christmas lockdown.
Double-jabbed people identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19 in England were told to take a daily rapid test for seven days from today. Unvaccinated people must self-isolate for ten days.
But as the rules began, people logging on to get packs of seven tests were told ‘there are no rapid lateral flow tests available to order today for home delivery’ before 7am.
Britons are being urged to head to pharmacies to pick them up in person, but many of these stores have also run out. However, there appeared to be no problems with the availability of PCR home test kits.
As a key plank in the Government’s covid prevention plan failed for the second day, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab insisted the issue with ordering lateral flows from the Government website is not due to a lack of the tests.
There are no more home lateral flow tests available in the UK with any supply going before 7am this morning at a time when the Government is telling millions to use one daily
A senior NHS source told The Times that the vaccine target would be harder than adapting to Covid in March last year or dealing with January’s peak in admissions, and said ministers ‘have a duty to set realistic expectations so they don’t set up the public services they lead to fail’. They added that there was also ‘a real question of how quickly the required increase can happen’, saying it would take several days even to know what was feasible.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and other NHS trusts, told The Guardian: ‘The NHS is already under enormous pressure, and scaling up in this way will be a huge challenge.’
Yesterday there were long queues for jabs and the NHS booking system creaked under surging demand. Up to 57,000 appointments were made an hour – 16 a second.
The NHS is developing plans for a rapid acceleration of the vaccine programme so that 20million people can be jabbed by January. Hundreds of ‘pop-up’ centres will be opened, including at football stadiums. Some sites will operate 24 hours a day, even on Christmas Day, while pharmacies will be asked to provide jabs outside their regular hours of business.
The 15-minute wait required after an injection may be ditched to increase capacity at small venues.
Around 750 members of the Armed Forces were yesterday called in to help with the mission and councils, fire brigades and police have been asked to offer up any staff trained in delivering jabs. The military deployment will include 60 planners and logistics experts working at NHS England, as well as small teams of soldiers helping out across the country.
However, ministers believe they still need tens of thousands of volunteers to staff pop-up centres and other vaccine sites.
Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m issuing a call for volunteers to join our national mission to get jabs in arms. Many thousands have already given their time but we need you to come forward again, to work alongside our brilliant GPs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to deliver jabs and save lives.’
The booster push follows emerging evidence that a third jab may provide up to 70 per cent protection against infection from Omicron, compared with only negligible protection for those who have had two doses.
It also comes amid reports that supplies of rapid home testing kits for Covid appeared to run dry yesterday after Sajid Javid advised anyone planning to mix with friends and family indoors over the Christmas holidays to take a lateral flow test beforehand.
After the NHS last week announced a recruitment drive for 10,000 paid vaccinators, 4,500 people registered their interest and 13,000 came forward as volunteers.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam appealed to the 30,000 people who volunteered in the original jabs rollout to step forward again. There are currently 3,000 vaccine sites staffed by more than 90,000 volunteers.
In a letter to health staff last night, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard acknowledged that some routine appointments would ‘have to be postponed’ to meet the challenge from Mr Johnson.
She added: ‘Some other appointments will need to be postponed to the New Year. If we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions would be even greater.’
Outlining the rollout plans, Miss Pritchard said the NHS would be ‘creating capacity, both by maximising throughput, efficiency and opening times of existing sites to operate 12 hours per day as standard, seven days per week as well as running 24 hours where relevant for the local community, and through opening additional pop-up and new sites’.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has laid down the rule requiring a wait of 15 minutes after receiving a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. The regulator last week rejected a request by ministers to drop the wait.
A Whitehall source said that scrapping it was essential to meeting the jabs target because small sites such as pharmacies and GP surgeries did not have space to allow more patients to wait. They are also pushing the regulator to assess the case for vaccinating the under-12s.
NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services
Pubs and restaurants could be closed under harsh New Year curbs sparking yet more Tory outrage as 79 MPs vow to vote against Boris’s Plan B TODAY
Hospitality businesses could be shut within weeks under Government plans to halt the spread of the Covid variant as Boris Johnson faces the biggest revolt of his premiership today, with a third of Tory backbenchers preparing to vote against controversial ‘Plan B’ vaccine passports.
Whitehall officials have drawn up proposals to limit the number of people allowed in pubs and restaurants across the country amid mounting concern over the so-called ‘Omicron’ strain, according to The Sun.
The plans could trigger a wave of New Year’s Eve party cancellations and further decimate the industry, with MPs now privately warning that they will torpedo any attempts to reintroduce draconian restrictions such as the ‘Rule of Six’ or a ban on households mixing.
As many as 79 Conservative MPs – equivalent to the Government’s working majority which it won at the 2019 General Election – are ready to rebel against ‘illiberal’ restrictions that would make the NHS Covid pass necessary for entry to larger venues. Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before today’s vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass.
Downing Street has claimed that hospitality venues could be forced to close without vaccine passports. But critical MPs claim the measures will not work, and several ministerial aides are on ‘resignation watch’.
Many within the Conservative Party particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties. There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices.
The Government’s new Covid crackdown – which includes orders to work from home and compulsory facemasks in more settings – is expected to sail through the Commons because Sir Keir Starmer has said the Labour Party will support the measures.
But the Commons mutiny could wipe out Mr Johnson’s majority and eclipse his biggest revolt yet, when 54 Tories voted against the tier system of curbs last December.
MPs yesterday accused the Health Secretary of ‘shifting the goalposts’. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith admitted being ‘concerned about the mixed and heavy messaging coming from the government’, while Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said it was ‘not acceptable to keep governing this country by decree’.
One backbencher told The Guardian: ‘These restrictions are the gateway drug to more serious restrictions down the line. I think we’ll be on Plan X, Y or Z by Christmas.’
Another said ‘scare stories’ about further curbs beyond Plan B had ‘actually had the opposite effect’ and emboldened the rebels.
The NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron, which is causing around 200,000 new infections per day, the Health Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December.
He said: ‘It is asking a huge amount of our colleagues in the NHS.
‘And it’s our joint view that we can try to offer adults a chance to get boosted by the end of this month.
‘And that does not mean every single person necessarily can get that booster, it requires them to come forward and to take up this offer as well, as well as everything going right in this huge expansion plan.’
It follows confusion over whether the Government has promised that people can all have a jab in their arm by the December 31 deadline, or whether they will just have an offer of a future vaccine.
It comes as the UK recorded its first death involving Omicron, and 10 people are in hospital with the variant.
Most of these 10 have received two vaccines and range in age from 18 to 85, though there are no details on whether they have underlying conditions.
Mr Javid told the Commons: ‘Until now the highest number of jabs that we’ve delivered in a single day in the UK was over 840,000. We’ll not only need to match that but we will need to beat that every day. But we can and we’ve got a plan to try and do it. We’re opening more vaccination sites including pop-up and mobile sites that’ll be working seven days a week. We are training thousands more volunteer vaccinators, we’re asking GPs and pharmacies to do more and we’re drafting in 42 military planning teams across every region of our country.’
Mr Javid said he acknowledge that ‘our national mission comes with some difficult trade-offs’, meaning some non-urgent appointments and surgery in the NHS may be cancelled.
He added: ‘These are steps that no Health Secretary would wish to take unless they were absolutely necessary, but I am convinced that if we don’t prioritise the booster now the health consequences will be far more grave in the months that lie ahead.’
Mr Johnson is facing the biggest rebellion of his premiership, with dozens of Tory MPs set to vote against the latest Covid restrictions.
More than 70 backbenchers are threatening to defy the whips and oppose the Government’s Plan B for England, brought in in the face of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. It is reported that up to 10 ministerial aides could resign to vote against the controls.
The measures – including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues – are expected to pass the Commons on Tuesday with the support of Labour, who back tighter controls.
However the scale of the threatened revolt underlines how difficult Mr Johnson’s position has become following a series of largely self-inflicted wounds suffered by the Government in recent weeks.
It could become even more precarious if the Conservatives are defeated in the North Shropshire by-election on Thursday, where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to overturn a Tory majority of almost 23,000 from the last general election.
The Prime Minister faced a wave of public anger after reports that a series of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year at a time when such gatherings were largely banned.
The country’s top civil servant, the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, is currently carrying out an investigation into whether the rules were broken – something Mr Johnson has repeatedly denied.
Within the Conservative Party, it has only served to compound the deep frustration among a large section of backbenchers at the return of new Covid controls.
Many particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties.
There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices.
Mr Johnson has insisted the measures represent a ‘balanced and proportionate’ response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The health service in England declared a ‘Level 4 National Incident’, which means the NHS centrally will now lead the response to the virus rather than local trusts setting their own course. It will enable vaccine clinics to operate around the clock while hospital trusts will be able to discharge some patients to hotels.
Some scientists have warned that further measures will be required in the coming weeks if the service is not to be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of hospital admissions.
However the anticipated Tory revolt – expected to exceed the previous record of 55 under Mr Johnson’s leadership – could badly damage his political authority if more action is needed. For now, the Prime Minister is hoping a ramped up booster jab campaign – significantly increasing the protection the vaccines provide against Omicron – will be enough to enable the NHS to get through the winter.
He has issued an appeal for ‘tens of thousands’ of volunteer stewards and vaccinators to step forward to help deliver the Government’s ‘national mission’ to get the offer of a top-up jab to every eligible adult in England by the end of the month.
‘We need to increase our jabbing capacity to unprecedented levels,’ he said.
Sir Keir Starmer confirmed Labour would support the Government in the Commons vote saying it was their ‘patriotic duty’ to back the additional restrictions.
Under the new measures from Wednesday, NHS Covid passes will be required for entry to indoor venues containing more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Mr Javid said once all adults have had the chance to get a booster, people will need to have had the third dose if they are to be exempt from the requirement to show a negative test.
Anyone faking a pass could be hit with a £10,000 fine while councils will have the power to shut down businesses if they fail to comply with the rules.
Mr Javid told MPs there are now 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, adding that the UK Health Security Agency estimates that the current number of ‘daily infections are around 200,000’.
He added: ‘While Omicron represents over 20 per cent of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44 per cent in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours.’
Overall, there were a further 54,661 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK as of Monday morning, the Government said.
Mr Javid also urged people to have boosters as a way of protecting children.
Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, asked Mr Javid to ‘make sure schools are kept open in January’.
Mr Javid said: ‘One of the reasons to take the measures we’ve said, especially around expanding the booster programme, is to make sure we can prioritise our children.’
Downing Street has indicated schools will be kept open unless there is an ‘absolute public health emergency’ and warned local authorities against deciding to close early for Christmas as a precautionary measure.
‘There are certainly no plans to put in any restriction on schooling, we know how vital education has been and how detrimental the pandemic has been towards children and young people who, in many cases, have borne the brunt of this,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Earlier, Boris Johnson announced the first UK death with Omicron during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington in west London.
The Prime Minister said: ‘Sadly, yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.
‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’
Mr Johnson repeatedly declined to rule out further coronavirus restrictions ahead of Christmas but stressed the urgency of people getting boosters.
‘Throughout the pandemic I’ve been at great pains to stress to the public that we have to watch where the pandemic is going and we take whatever steps are necessary to protect public health,’ he added.
In England a booster is available to everyone aged 18 or over from this week as long as the second dose was at least three months ago.
Over-30s can already book a booster online and, from Wednesday, this will be extended to over-18s.
Mr Johnson said MPs thinking of rebelling against Plan B measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with Omicron.
Asked about support among his backbenchers ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: ‘I think that what everybody needs to recognise is a couple of things, that Omicron is a very serious risk to public health, and that it’s spreading very fast, and I think there’s no room for complacency.
‘But we have the vaccines, our position remains incomparably better than it was last year.
‘And I hope that people will also understand, colleagues in Westminster, around the country, will also see that the measures we’re putting in place are balanced and proportionate.’
Responding to the fact the Government website said on Monday ‘there are no more home tests available’ when people tried to order lateral flow kits, the Prime Minister said there was a ‘ready supply’ of tests.
The UK Health Security Agency said earlier that ‘due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders’.
It added: ‘Everyone who needs a lateral flow test can collect test kits, either at their local pharmacy, some community sites and some schools and colleges.’
But Labour shadow health minister Wes Streeting described Covid testing as a ‘shambles’.
He told MPs that pharmacies across the country are out of stock, ‘and even here in Parliament there are no home-testing kits available from Portcullis House’.
He said an increase in demand should have been foreseen and said: ‘This is a serious problem.’
Professor Salim Karim said early data from South Africa looks good.
The former chair of the South African ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19 told BBC News: ‘In the past three waves, about two out of every three patients admitted were cases of severe disease, and right now we have only one out of four cases that is severe – a marked difference.
‘So it looks like, at this stage, you know early data and one doesn’t want to over-interpret it, but the signs are certainly looking good.’
However, it is important to note that South Africa has a younger population than the UK so direct comparisons can be tricky.
Q&A: Why is the booster rollout being accelerated? What’s happening to the bookings website? What’s the situation with walk-in centres?
Why is the booster rollout being accelerated?
A third dose of the Covid vaccine has been long planned because the immunity vaccines offer against the virus wanes over time. Originally the booster was on offer to the over-40s, but the rapid spread of the Omicron variant means the programme is being sped up. Online appointments for the over-30s were opened yesterday, and from tomorrow those aged 18 to 29 will able to book.
What’s happened to the bookings website?
Yesterday morning no fewer than 110,000 people visited the website before 9am to secure a booster jab. This led to the website crashing, and some people were left in a queue for hours. NHS Digital was forced to bring in extra capacity to allow more people to book. A spokesman said: ‘The vaccine booking service is facing extremely high demand and is operating a queuing system to manage numbers. We would advise people currently unable to book to try again later today or tomorrow.’
What’s the situation at walk-in centres?
Thousands have turned up at walk-in vaccine centres up and down the country. Long queues were seen outside many as people tried to get their boosters as soon as possible. Hundreds waited outside the centre in Hungerford, Berkshire, and many had to wait more than four hours to be seen. Some people reported being turned away in parts of the country, due to the huge demand.
When will the third doses be completed?
Boris Johnson announced a new target allowing all adults to get a jab by the end of the year. However NHS England and the Department of Health say the target is that everyone should be offered the chance to book a jab by then – meaning some people may not receive them until January. But Downing Street insist the Prime Minister meant what he said. The target will mean a million jabs will have to be given every day – many more than the previous daily record of around 850,000.
What does it mean for vaccine passports?
People who want to go to a nightclub or another large venue have been told to show the NHS Covid pass to gain entry. Yesterday Sajid Javid said the passports would soon require three jabs to gain entry.