ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports on the significance of the coronavirus booster jab roll out
Britons have been told they can save Christmas from Plan B coronavirus restrictions this year by getting a Covid-19 vaccine, as concern grows over rising infection levels ahead of winter.
Boris Johnson said vaccines will get the country through the winter and out of the pandemic, while NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said getting a booster will “protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned”.
The repeated calls for people to get jabbed comes as Mr Johnson resists pleas from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising number of cases.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that new cases could reach 100,000 a day, but Downing Street insisted there was still spare capacity in the NHS and that Plan B would only be activated if it came under “significant pressure”.
Plan B includes working-from-home guidance and the mandatory use of face masks.
Labour is calling on the government to bring in such curbs to tackle the virus in England.
On Sunday morning, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "I think the first thing is the government have got to do more to make Plan A work."
"If the scientists are saying work from home and masks, we should do that. So get A working better because the vaccination programme has been stalling, and introduce those parts of Plan B," she added. "But there are also things not in A or B that need to be done, like paying statutory sick pay from day one and also better ventilation in public spaces." Asked whether Plan B should be introduced now, she said: "Yes, but let's not let the government off the hook with Plan A either."
Mr Johnson has resisted another lockdown.
He has said "vaccines are our way through this winter" and has urged those eligible for a booster to get one when they receive an invitation to.
But some experts have warned against complacency as they raised concerns about a "worsening" situation.
Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said people need to be testing themselves, wearing masks and avoiding crowds in enclosed spaces in order to prevent “a real meltdown”.
Prof Finn added that while vaccines are very effective at stopping people from getting seriously ill, they are not so effective at stopping infections altogether or stopping the virus from spreading.
The Mail on Sunday, meanwhile, reported Mr Javid will tell NHS leaders to allow people aged over 50 to be able to book a third shot a month five months after their second dose, a month earlier than they can currently.
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Professor Powis, who said this week that the NHS feels “exceptionally busy”, has written in the Sunday Telegraph that it will “no doubt be a tough winter”.
He wrote: “To maximise the impact of the vaccination programme we must all continue to act responsibly.
“The more of us that come forward for our booster jab, and the more we keep our resolve in helping to limit the spread of infection, then the greater chance we all have of staying well”.
Professor Powis said this time last year there were more than 6,800 people in hospital with Covid, and this weekend the figure is 6,405, but in 2020 the nation was still six weeks away from the world’s first vaccination.
“So, when your time comes, take up the offer, book your booster and protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned and deserve to enjoy,” he said.
The calls for people to get their boosters come after Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said case numbers and death rates are currently “unacceptable”.
He said measures such as working from home and mask wearing are “so important” as part of efforts to control the spread of Covid.
Meanwhile, The Observer is reporting that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) contacted local authorities on Friday to canvass their level of support for the “immediate rollout of the winter plan – plan B”.
The government said that as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 44,985 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.