Website crashes as thousands try to book boosters
More than half a million people booked their booster jab on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, after he announced that boosters would be offered to all over-18s by the end of the year.
Online bookings for the over-30s opened on Monday, while 18 to 29-year-olds were able to book their booster jabs from Wednesday. Long queues at walk-in vaccine centres in England were reported on Monday after the prime minister announced the expansion to the booster rollout, in response to the Omicron variant.
An NHS Digital spokesperson said: “The vaccine booking service is facing extremely high demand and is operating a queuing system to manage numbers. We would advise people currently unable to book to try again later today or tomorrow.”
Read the full story in BBC News.
Covid passes for large venues introduced in England despite PM suffering huge Tory rebellion
Covid passports have come into effect after MPs backed the government’s plans to introduce them from Wednesday as part of its Plan B coronavirus restrictions, despite the prime minister suffering a huge Tory rebellion.
Covid passports will be required for: access to nightclubs, access to indoor events with more than 500 attendees, such as music venues, access to outdoor settings with more than 4,000 people, such as music festivals and access to all settings with more than 10,000 attendees, for example, sports stadiums.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the measures were “necessary”.”We can’t be sure about the severity of the Omicron variant, but we can be certain that it’s spreading and spreading fast, faster than any other variant and even if a smaller proportion of Omicron victims are hospitalised, the rapid advance of the virus through the population could see large numbers of people admitted to hospital during the months in which the NHS is under greatest pressure.”
Read the full story in ITV News.
UK’s R number for Omicron between 3 and 5, health chief says
Dr Susan Hopkins, the UK Health Security Agency’s chief medical adviser, told MPs on the Commons health committee that for Omicron, the R value in the UK is between 3 and 5. This means that every person infected with the Omicron COVID variant is believed to be passing it on to between three and five others on average.
The current R value of the Delta epidemic in the UK is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.2. Dr Hopkins told the hearing that reliable data on Omicron will not be available until the week between Christmas and New Year at the earliest, and may not appear before early January.
When asked about the effects Omicron will have on the NHS, Chris Witty said: “The range of possibilities is really quite wide and that’s why it’s very difficult to make definitive views about where the NHS is going to end up in the next four weeks… It is possible that, with a boost, we’re better off with Omicron than we are with two vaccines with Delta for severe disease. I don’t think that’s likely for infection, but it’s possible, but we honestly don’t know.”
Read the full story in Sky News.
‘Deprioritise’ social interactions ahead of Christmas, Chris Whitty urges amid rising Covid cases
Britons have been told they should “deprioritise” some social interactions in the run up to Christmas in order to protect meetings with people important to them. England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said people eager to spend Christmas with their family should “do only what you need to” to avoid catching Covid and having to self-isolate.
Prof Whitty also urged people not to over-interpret reports from South Africa that Omicron causes “milder” disease than other strains, saying it would be “dangerous” to do so. The professor said it is unhelpful to make direct comparisons with South Africa because recent Covid waves there mean many people have higher levels of immunity.
Professor Whitty warned that “records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up…What we’ve got is two epidemics on top of one another – an existing Delta epidemic, roughly flat, and a very rapidly-growing Omicron epidemic on top of it,” he told a press conference. The strain is presenting “probably the most significant threat” of the pandemic so far, according to head of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries, and it could place the NHS in “serious peril”.
Read the full story in ITV News.
Quote of the week
As the JCVI add pregnant women to the priority group for vaccination, Gayatri Amirthalingam, from the UK Health Security Agency has said:
“We know that the vaccines used in the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme have been highly effective in preventing serious complications and those recommended for pregnant women have a good safety record. I would urge all pregnant women to come forward and get their vaccine without delay. This is the best way to protect you and your baby.”
Read the full story in The Guardian.