Boris Johnson is relying heavily on the booster programme to protect Britain from any additional threat posed by the Omicron variant. The Prime Minister made that very clear at this afternoon’s Covid press conference in Downing Street, opening by saying that ‘there is one thing we already know for sure: right now, our single best defence against Omicron is to get vaccinated and get boosted’. Temporary vaccination centres were going to pop up ‘like Christmas trees’, he said.
He also seemed committed, if not to boosterism in the form of unbridled optimism about how the next few months would go, then at least to a reluctance to tell people to change their behaviour. He rejected calls for greater working from home, and dismissed the advice of Dr Jenny Harries to minimise socialising, saying that ‘the guidance remains the same’ and that the government is ‘trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach’. And the PM said he did not want people to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays. He also promised that what new restrictions had been introduced would be ended as soon as possible (while he was speaking, MPs were voting on those additional measures, with the Commons approving them 434 votes to 23).
Johnson accepted that this could change, saying:
‘We haven’t ruled out anything. I’ve got to tell you I think another lockdown of the kind we’ve had before is extremely unlikely.’
He also sounded like he had ruled out regional lockdowns, arguing that ‘moving together is the way to do it’.
Speaking alongside him, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the briefing that the booster programme offered the best chance of people being able to see their loved ones. Once again, everything is predicated on people getting their jab as soon as they’re eligible, not restrictions. It’s still a gamble, given the efficacy of the vaccines against Omicron is still unknown. But it is more acceptable at present than further restrictions, as they would suggest that living with Covid is going to involve a lot of disruption for a long time.
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