The UK’s health service on Wednesday began preparations to speed up the rollout of its COVID-19 booster vaccinations for the most vulnerable groups and eventually for all adults aged over 18 in the hope of slowing down the spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus and buying more time as further data emerges.
A total of 32 cases of the Omicron variant – feared to be more rapidly transmissible than even the Delta variant – have been confirmed in the UK so far. The British government has maintained that vaccines remain the best line of defence against all COVID variants as rules around face coverings in indoor settings and additional PCR tests for travellers entering the country have been put in place.
The National Health Service (NHS) is putting measures in place to enhance its vaccination programme, with an additional 1 million jabs a week required to meet the target of January 2022 set by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cover all adults with a third dose.
Around 18 million people in the UK have already had a top-up booster jab, which will now be offered after a shorter gap of three, rather than six, months after a second vaccine to top up antibodies against COVID-19.
Hospital hubs will be asked to offer vaccines to the public as well as NHS frontline staff and more pharmacies will be used in a bid to meet the January 31, 2022, target.
While the government has maintained that Christmas gatherings, a particular norm at this time of the year, can continue with caution and protective lateral flow tests, some health experts have been advising against such parties.
“It’s great to see the best of British food and drink here in Downing Street, especially in the run up to Christmas,” said Boris Johnson, with reference to a special Christmas market set up outside his 10 Downing Street office in London this week.
The government advice at the moment says people need not cancel their Christmas plans but must take additional precautionary measures, including mask wearing.
Meanwhile, the UK’s official daily coronavirus infections tally recorded 39,716 COVID-19 cases and 159 deaths on Tuesday.