Covid 'blizzard from the east' to put Christmas at risk

Boris Johnson has warned that the UK could be hit by a ‘Covid blizzard’ from Europe if people do not get their booster jabs.

His comments come as the Netherlands imposed a partial lockdown last week and as Austria locked down its unvaccinated population on Monday.

The UK continues to have some of the highest daily case numbers in Europe but infection rates are surging in other countries on the continent.

On Monday, the Prime Minister insisted there was still nothing in the UK’s coronavirus data to suggest further restrictions were needed – despite a ‘storm of infection’ in Europe.

Speaking on a visit to a medical centre in east London, Mr Johnson said: ‘We don’t see anything in the data at the moment to suggest that we need to go to Plan B, we’re sticking with Plan A.

‘But what we certainly have got to recognise is there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe, you can see those numbers ticking up very sharply in some of our continental friends.

‘And we’ve just got to recognise that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder.

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‘The best protection for our country is for everybody to go forward and get that booster.’

Earlier on Monday, the Government announced that the over-40s would be able to book a third vaccine dose in time for Christmas, while a cabinet minister insisted that stopping a lockdown over the festive period – as happened last year – is in the public’s hands.

Scientists are divided on the issue, but some have said a Christmas lockdown in unlikely in the UK.

Mr Johnson added that those who are still ending up in intensive care with coronavirus are those who have not been jabbed.

He said: ‘I think it’s very good news that the JCVI has today authorised the booster programme to be rolled out to everybody 40-plus, and when you look at what’s happening in the pandemic at the moment, just hearing in Newham sadly there are people in ITU, in intensive care, who are suffering badly from Covid, but they’re all the unvaccinated.

‘And what’s happening is if you can get your booster then your immunity goes right back up to 95%.

‘So far we’ve got 75% of everybody over 70 getting a booster, there’s a huge number of people, but it’s that further 25% that will make all the difference to winter, to Christmas, to our plans going forward, because it’s that extra level of protection that we really need.’

Last year the Prime Minister insisted that the public could celebrate Christmas before performing a screeching UK and locking down the country days before.

But experts have agreed that the move came to late and by mid January well over 1,000 people were dying with the disease every day, as the NHS struggled to cope with the strain.

The situation has changed dramatically this year, with more than 100 million vaccine doses being administered across the UK – meaning fewer people are becoming seriously ill with the illness.

But case numbers remain stubbornly high, with the average of the last seven days above 37,000 and the daily deaths standing at above 150.

So far, 12.6 million Brits have had a third dose of a Covid vaccine – helping to boost immunity that wanes months after a second jab.

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