Official figures reveal that Britain’s Covid crisis has shrunk today on all fronts, despite the discovery of eight Omicron variants in England. This led to No10 announcing a massive new booster drive.

Department of Health bosses posted 39,716 new positive tests over the last 24 hours, down 6.5 per cent on last Tuesday’s figure of 42,484.

It was the fourth straight day that cases fell despite UK Health Security Agency’s announcement it sequenced supermutant strains at Haringey in London and Haringey of Liverpool, North Norfolk, and Sutton.

The number of people dying with the virus also fell 3.6 per cent to 159 today, down from 165 recorded last week.

And hospitalisations dropped to 718 on Friday, the latest date that data is available for. The fourteenth consecutive week of falls in admissions was marked by a drop in the number at 6.1%.

The figures come as Boris Johnson pledged to deliver third doses to all adults by the end of January to shield the nation against the new variant. 

The Prime Minister announced he is drafting in the Army again to help deliver the programme and will offer GPs an extra £15 for every injection as he promised to deliver another ‘great British vaccination effort’. 

A £5 bonus will be given to GPs per shot if they do them on Sundays and they will get a £30 premium for shots delivered to the most vulnerable who are unable to leave their homes. To help the mammoth drive, 10,000 additional paid vaccine volunteers are being recruited.

However, it could mean less face to face appointments with GPs for non-Covid patient. These are currently running at around a fifth of their pre-pandemic levels. 


Covid booster: Key points 

A coronavirus booster vaccine will be given to all adults over 18 by January 31st

– Jabs will now be available in five-year descending age categories, beginning with seniors and vulnerable individuals before being offered to those at the bottom.

If you are eligible for a jab, the NHS will notify you.

1 500 community pharmacies will have the ability to give jabs. All will be informed to improve capacity

Additional vaccination hubs in hospitals throughout the country will be opened, while temporary vaccine centers will also open.

A total of 30 hospitals offer jabs for the public, and many more are on the horizon.

There will nearly 3,000 UK sites offering vaccines.

For the NHS, at most 400 military personnel will deploy to support volunteers and staff to administer jabs. 

– 18million boosters have been delivered by the UK already, which is higher than in any country other than China and the USA.  

This is equivalent to 27.2 percent of the entire UK population. 53.3 million people will be eventually eligible, and 22m of them are already eligible.

 Community pharmacists will be incentivised to deliver more jabs, with the payment for standard delivery of a vaccination increased to £15 a shot.

– An extra £5 per shot will be offered to pharmacists if they work on Sundays

– A £30 premium will be offered to pharmacists for vaccinations delivered to people who are housebound

To free up time for clinicians, the Care Quality Commission will keep a halt on general practice routine inspections.  

To increase access to smaller venues, the NHS will eliminate the 15-minute wait after vaccination.   

– The NHS is recruiting for up to 10,000 new paid vaccinator roles as well as for an army of ‘tens of thousands’ of new volunteers to help with the drive       

Here are some other developments in coronavirus today 

  • After health professionals suggested that people should limit their socializing over Christmas, Mr Johnson & Mr Javid sought to dispel any fears of hospitality.
  • The Prime Minister said he does not agree with Dr Jenny Harries, who urged people not to socialise if they do not need to in the run-up to Christmas, and was asked if Christmas parties should be cancelled;
  • Because Omicron’s case numbers are low, he said that a repeat of this ‘pingdemic” is unlikely to occur.
  • Johnson claimed that Johnson believed it “extremely unlikely”, that another lockdown was required. However, he did not rule out the possibility. 
  • The Prime Minister stated that the government does not wish people to cancel Christmas parties, nativity plays or other festive events.
  • Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, stated that she wanted to increase the capacity for hospitals and GPs to give more booster jabs. 
  • Ms Pritchard stated that they are looking into ‘how we can reduce other burdens for GPs to administrate boosters’. 

Scientists have cautioned that the boosters will probably not give the same level of protection against  Omicron as they do against Delta because the new strain is so evolved. 

However, No10 believes that the increase in immunity will provide some protection from the variant. 

Moderna warned today that a ‘material drop’ in the effectiveness of existing vaccines, particularly against infection.

Pfizer said that it expects current vaccines will provide excellent protection against death and hospitalisation. Omicron-specific booster shot are being developed by both companies and will be made available in the middle of 2022. 

Mr Johnson told the Downing Street briefing that new vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’ to get boosters in arms over the coming months, following reports that dozens of elderly and vulnerable around the country were struggling to get their jabs before the booster drive was expanded. 

He stated that ‘proportional’ regulations, including mandatory face masks for public transport as well as in shops, nail salons, and hairdressers were brought in in order to purchase time so scientists could ‘crack Omicron codes’. These restrictions would no longer be necessary.  

There are questions about how the booster drive can handle the increased demand. The backlog was more than 7,000,000 people before the expansion of the programme.

Only 18 million of the estimated 25million Britons aged 40 and over were eligible for the one-year grant.

As long as the third dose of their last dose has not expired, this new guidance will allow 53million eligible people to apply.

6.9 million people aged 40 and over were automatically made eligible by the new guidelines. Today, there are 40 million eligible people.  

Johnson stated this at a Downing Street Press Conference. This virus has been defeated before.  

Boris Johnson today called on all Britons aged 18 and over to come forward for their booster by the end of January as the best line of defence against the new Omicron supermutant Covid variant

Boris Johnson called today on all Britons 18 years and older to get their booster before the end January, as this is the best defense against the Omicron supermutant Covid variant.

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won't be ready until mid-2022

Moderna and Pfizer have been working together on Covid vaccines for Omicron, which could be used to treat the problem. But they will not be available until around mid-2022.

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

Botswana has approximately 50 variants. More than 30 mutations are on spike protein. The body can recognize the older version of the virus’ spike protein with the latest vaccines. The mutations could make spike proteins look different, which may cause the immune system to struggle to recognize it and attack it. Three of its spike mutations, H665Y and N679K (P681H), allow it to enter cells faster. Experts believe it could be more contagious because it lacks a membrane protein (NSP6), as was the case in previous iterations. It also has two mutations, R203K (or G204R), that were present in every variant of the virus and have been associated with infectiousness. 

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms, including tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But none reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties

Chair of South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee said that patients with Omicron were experiencing milder and more subtle symptoms. These included tiredness, headaches, and muscle aches. However, none of them reported symptoms such as a loss in smell or taste, breathing problems or other signs. 

DON’T cancel Christmas parties! Boris and Saj are trying to dispel hospitality anxiety 

Boris Johnson today and Sajid javid today attempted to dispel hospitality worries after doctors suggested that it would be sensible to reduce socializing over Christmas.

As he pledged to throw everything at the Omicron coronavirus variant booster campaign, the Prime Minister advised people to not cancel their Christmas celebrations or schools nativity plays.

The President promised everyone who was eligible that they would get a vaccination by January 31st. At least 400 military personnel will be helping to support the NHS.

Johnson rejected the call of senior officials in healthcare to reduce socialisation in the Christmas period. Instead, Johnson insisted that he had put into place a series of ‘balanced measures to deal with the potential threat from the new variant.

Sajid Javid, UK Health Secretary, said Omicron had now reached 22 cases. “We have to be realistic” that the strain is likely to spread within the UK.  

He said people need to be vaccinated in order to have a happy Christmas.

He said that he was bringing back memories from the previous winter’s strain. Although we don’t know what the future holds, there is one advantage we do have that was not available back then. It’s our vaccine program, which has done so much to prevent this virus from spreading.

“But we must use these defenses to keep ourselves safe. It is a national task and each person has a responsibility.

“If you want the best Christmas for your loved ones, it is best to get involved, take on the role of protector, and be ready when the opportunity arises.

However, problems with the booster rollout have plagued it since September launch. This has led to concerns that it cannot handle the increase in capacity.

Doctors claim they’re too busy dealing with non-Covid care record backlogs that developed during the pandemic. And figures reveal there’s a third less mass vaccination hubs giving boosters out now than the initial rollout.

Patients who are vulnerable have reported that they had to wait for weeks before getting a booster appointment. This is because many are administered at local pharmacies, which are limited in staffing and operate during restricted hours.  

Mr Johnson spoke out amid grave concerns in the NHS about his 500,000 jabs a day target to outpace Omicron — as ministers lined up GPs to do the work but doctors claimed they are ‘burnt out’ and warned more face-to-face appointments with patients will have to go if they are expected to help.    

Today the Health Service Journal reported that from December 1, doctors will receive £15 for each jab given from Monday to Saturday – up from £12.58. This will reach £20 for Sunday and Bank Holiday vaccinations until the end of January. Also, the pay for jabs at care homes or houses will rise.

One NHS chief executive said getting GPs to lead the surge was ‘a very big ask, on top of many other very big asks’, adding it would be extremely difficult to reach the 3.5million rate due to a lack of medics, volunteers and facilities after a third of vaccination centres closed this summer.

A GP practice manager tweeted: ‘Cash won’t make much difference, it’s the workload & workforce that’s the problem. This is not about the people who call patients and organise rotas. It’s also the people in the back room that track calls, make phone calls, organize logistics and sort out paperwork. 

The soldiers will be also called back. Some soldiers are helping to deliver the vaccine in Scotland, but none in England. Prior to being sworn in in July, some of them were responsible for administering the vaccines. 

This winter, thousands more of retired nurses and doctors who have helped in the last 12 months and volunteers will be required. 

Johnson stated at the Downing Street press event that he had already conducted almost 18 million boosters throughout the UK and that he still has millions to go to safeguard the most vulnerable.

“We’ll then rapidly move down the cohorts. We want to work together with the devolved authorities to boost capacity across the entire United Kingdom up to the level we reached in the last vaccine effort.

“We will be doing everything to make sure that every person eligible receives that booster in less than two months.