The Prime Minister and senior health chiefs are calling on the nation to get vaccinated against Covid-19 amid mounting concern over rising infection levels ahead of Christmas.

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.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has cautioned that new cases could reach 100,000 a day
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has cautioned that new cases could reach 100,000 a day

Mr Johnson, who has said there are no plans for another lockdown, said: “Vaccines are our way through this winter.

We’ve made phenomenal progress but our job isn’t finished yet, and we know that vaccine protection can drop after six months.

“To keep yourself, your loved ones, and everyone around you safe, please get your booster when you get the call.

“We can and will beat this virus but only if we listen to the science and look out for each other.

“This is a call to everyone, whether you’re eligible for a booster, haven’t got round to your second dose yet, or your child is eligible for a dose – vaccines are safe, they save lives, and they are our way out of this pandemic.”

Those eligible for boosters include anyone aged 50 and over, people living and working in care homes for the elderly, and frontline health and social care workers.

Prof 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.”

Prof 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.

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.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Openshaw, of Imperial College London, told BBC Breakfast: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.

“If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.

“We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.

“If that’s what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas.”

Prof Openshaw was asked what he would say to people who have concerns about what they can do to stop the spread of the virus in the event of the Government not reintroducing measures.

He told the programme: “I think take matters into your own hands. Don’t wait necessarily for Government policy.

“I’m very, very reluctant now to go into crowded spaces because I know that roughly one in 60 people in a crowded space are going to have the virus.

“If you can, cycle to work, don’t go on public transport. I think do everything possible in your control to try to reduce transmission. Don’t wait for the Government to change policy.

“The sooner we all act, the sooner we can get this transmission rate down, and the greater the prospect of having a Christmas with our families.”

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 yesterday (Saturday), there had been a further 44,985 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.

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